Benicio del Toro presents
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"AN adrenaline rush." That is how Benicio del Toro saw the Havana screening of the two films about Che by director Steven Soderberg.

 

By Mireya Castañeda

Del Toro is spectacular in the role of Che, not only in his physical resemblance but also in his brilliant interpretation, which has already won him the Best Actor award at the last Cannes Film Festival.

Oscar winner – Best Supporting Actor – for another Soderberg film Traffic (which both actor and director presented in Havana), Del Toro premiered both films, Che-Part One: The Argentine and Che - Part 2: Guerrilla on Saturday, December 6 at the Yara movie theater, which filled its 2,000 person capacity with those waiting with expectation for what the film would evoke.

"I’m here!" Del Toro shouted with emotion from the stage where he was accompanied by other members of the cast: Brazilian Rodrigo Santoro (Raúl Castro), Colombian Santiago Cabrera (Camilo Cienfuegos), Spaniard Carlos Bardem (Bolivian Moisés Guevara) and Cubans Jorge Perugorría (Vilo Acuña) and Vladimir Cruz (Ramiro Valdés).

After more than five hours of screening, the Cuban public gave its endorsement with a strong ovation.

GUERRILLAS

Before the screening, two of the real protagonists, Pombo (Major General (r) Harry Villegas, Hero of the Cuban Republic) and Urbano (Coronel Leonardo Tamayo), two fighters from Che’s guerrilla army gave Granma International their opinion of the films.

What importance do you give to a movie about Che made by a U.S. director?

Pombo: "I think that the importance doesn’t come from the fact that it was made by an American director. The importance is that a movie has been made about Che’s time in Cuba and Bolivia as near to reality as possible, and it got close enough. The importance that I see in it is that it brings Che’s revolutionary and ethical vision of life to young people, Cubans, Latin Americans, and Third World youth."

As someone who participated with Che in the guerrilla war, what feelings does it provoke?

Pombo: "As you can imagine, it brings us very close to moments in our lives that were very tense, difficult. In the case of what the fighting in Bolivia represents, and the Cuban part is in there, and it also reminds us of a whole combination of events that narrate the struggle, the taking of political power and creating possibilities for building a more just society."

What did you think of the movie?

Urbano: "As an advisor to the film, I did everything possible so that it would come out as real as possible, that the events remained in line with reality. We didn’t pay as much attention to the topography as we did to the real events. That the actors were as consistent as possible in their acting, in their physical appearance. Actor Benicio del Toro played his role very well in the film, and the same goes for the other actors, and I think that it was very good. I believe that the film is very good even though it does not take place in the most ideal scenery topographically speaking, but it gets us close enough to the events in the most real way possible."

What part of the movie moved you the most?

Urbano: When we saw Che wounded, of course. The part when the army approaches, when they take him prisoner, when they tie him up; this part, for me, was very difficult, very horrific, to see the actor at this moment, and I was taken back immediately, thinking that it was Che. For me this was a very hard moment. We saw Che."

 

BRINGING THE FILM TO WHERE EVERYTHING BEGAN

Benicio del Toro and his fellow cast members gave a mass press conference the next day and the actor appeared very pleased with the fact that those who fought with Che thought that the movie worked.

Responding to various questions about Che, Del Toro said that among all of his characteristics what most impressed him was Che’s will and his integrity, and the actor confided that interpreting his role helped him to know Che better, over and above the idea that other countries have about him. "There are many things about Che that I understand and share. He is a historical figure and completely honorable."

Del Toro described the reaction of the public as "sensation, an adrenaline rush. The dream was to make the movie and bring it here where everything began."

Meanwhile, Brazilian Santoro said that he received a great deal of help from the ICAIC (Cuban Film Institute), in reference to his study trip to Cuba during which he even went to the Sierra Maestra, and affirmed that it was Raul’s own journal that most helped him in learning about his character. "It is a historical and unforgettable moment to show the movie here, a very great honor."

For Colombian Santiago Cabrera, in addition to reading a lot about Camilo and coming to the island to meet with people close to him, what was most impressive was seeing "the affection that the people have for him."

Carlos Bardem was very grateful for having been able to "see the movie where it had to be seen. I felt a lot of responsibility. In some ways the movie is a tribute to Cuba and the Cuban people."

The always innovative Steven Soderbergh shot both films in Spanish. The Argentine and Guerrilla are two intense and interesting films.

Good news concluded the meeting: the producers announced that they have given ICAIC 20 copies of the film so that they can be shown throughout Cuba.