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Diarios de motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries) – 2004 – Rated R – Adventure/Biography – 126 mins

Diarios de motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries) is a 2004 biopic about the 1952 expedition across South America by Ernesto Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado. Ernesto Guevara would later become known all around the world as the iconic Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. This is the film representation of his written memoirs as a wide-eyed 23 year old and we see how Ernesto develops as a person and discovers himself transformed by his observations on the life of the impoverished indigenous people of South America that he meets along the way. Ernesto and Alberto initially set out on Alberto’s old motorcycle (named “La Poderosa” – “The Mighty One”) from their home in Argentina, but are forced to use a variety of different modes of transport to reach their final destination.

Their planned route takes them north across the Andes, along the coast of Chile, through the Atacama Desert and into the Peruvian Amazon in order to reach Venezuela just in time for Granado’s 30th birthday on April 2. Due to various complications along the way they arrive three months late. They set out from Buenos Aires a semester before Ernesto Guevara is due to complete his medical degree with the intention of finding fun and adventure and to see as much of Latin America as they can. Their route takes in more than 5,000 miles in just four and a half months and it is an extremely ambitious ask. The screenplay of Diarios de motocicleta is based primarily on Guevara’s real-life travelogue “The Motorcycle Diaries” by Ernesto Che Guevara, with additional context supplied by “Traveling with Che Guevara: The Making of a Revolutionary” by Alberto Granado.

Through the characters that Ernesto and Alberto encounter on their journey, they experience first-hand the imbalance between the haves and the have-nots of South America. The pair came themselves from relatively wealthy backgrounds and were exposed to people and social classes they would have never encountered otherwise. The trip plants the initial seed of cognitive dissonance and radicalization within Che Guevara, who would later view armed revolution as a way to challenge the continent’s endemic economic inequalities.

Che Guevara is played by Mexican actor Gael García Bernal and Alberto Granado by Argentine actor Rodrigo de la Serna. De la Serna is a second cousin to the real life Guevara on his maternal side. To prepare for the role of the young Che Guevara, Gael García Bernal went through six months of intense preparation which included reading every biography about Guevara, traveling to Cuba to speak with Guevara’s family, and consulting with Guevara’s then still living travel partner Alberto Granado. Bernal also had to work hard on his Argentinian accent and spent 14 weeks reading the works of José Martí, Karl Marx and Che Guevara’s favorite poet Pablo Neruda.

Diarios de motocicleta is directed by Brazilian director Walter Salles and written by Puerto Rican playwright José Rivera. The film was an international co-production among production companies from Argentina, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Chile, Peru and France. It won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures and the 2005 BAFTA Film Award for the Best Film not in the English Language. The sountrack of Diarios de motocicleta is beautiful. The majority of the soundtrack was composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, but it also includes the song “Al Otro Lado del Río” by Jorge Drexler which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2005.

Watch the trailer for Spanish language film Diarios de motocicleta:

Listen to song from the film “Al Otro Lado del Río” by Jorge Drexler:

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