December 8, 2008 / 12:18 AM / 10 years ago

"Che" movie wins praise in Cuba

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cubans have applauded an American director’s new movie on Ernesto “Che” Guevara for its accurate portrayal of his role in Cuba’s revolution.

People stand next an image of late rebel leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Cardenas, December 6, 2008. REUTERS/Claudia Daut

They packed into two cinemas over the weekend to see “Che,” a four-hour epic directed by Steven Soderbergh, during Havana’s annual Latin American film festival.

Benicio Del Toro, who plays the Argentine-born revolutionary, was joined at the screening by Leonardo Tamayo. He fought with Guevara in Bolivia, where Che was captured and executed in 1967 for trying to lead an insurgency.

The film covers two parts of Guevara’s life — his role in the 1959 revolution in Cuba with Fidel Castro, and his struggle and death in Bolivia.

“It’s great. It really reflects the life of Che and his fight in Bolivia and how he was assassinated,” said Eugenio Martinez, a retiree at one screening. “It’s satisfying to see that his fight was not in vain.”

Havana festival organizers had said in July that “Che” would not be shown if it attacked Fidel Castro, the ailing 82-year-old who led Cuba for 49 years after taking power in the 1959 revolution.

Cuba said the film was shot in Spain and Bolivia because the U.S. government, which has a four-decade trade embargo against communist-run Cuba, barred Soderbergh from making the movie on the island.

The film appeared in Cuba as President-elect Barack Obama is raising expectations he will ease restrictions on the island, a move the Cuban government says would be a positive first step to ending the dispute over the Florida Straits.

Granma, the newspaper of Cuba’s ruling Communist Party, praised Del Toro but said Fidel Castro’s character lacked charisma and depth.

Soderbergh, who won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or for best film in 1989 with “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” said he was fascinated by Guevara, who has become a symbol of rebellion the world over.

Reporting by Patrick Markey; Editing by Xavier Briand

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