Ernesto “Che” Guevara is one of those historical figures that you know by name, but perhaps don’t quite understand exactly why that is.
Chevolution is one of those documentaries that highlights an interesting, albeit brief, moment in history. In what was only a matter of seconds, fashion photographer Alberto “Korda” Diaz Gutierrez captured the portrait of a man who has since become an international icon.

The first half hour of this culture doc discusses where Che came from. It briefly chronicles his time traveling through South America and his meeting with Fidel Castro in Mexico City. It introduces us to Alberto Korda and a little history about how he got his start taking pictures. This information is informative, although it seems to suffer from a curious problem. It drags slowly, yet does not inform enough. It would be nice to know the circumstances of how Che met Castro. All we are told is that they met in Mexico City; the dynamic of this meeting is never exposed.

When we do finally get to the story of the photograph, things get interesting. As it sometimes happens with historical events of great magnitude, the picture of Che (one of the most famous pictures in the world) came about by pure chance. Korda was in a crowd of hundreds at a memorial service for the victims of the bombing of the La Cubre, a ship carrying arms from overseas that exploded while it was being unloaded. He snapped two shots of Che as the revolutionary briefly stood and looked out from a grandstand over the crowd of Cubans. The photos were just part of a reel of film containing dozens from the event, neither made it into the papers the next day. Years later, they would surface as posters printed by an Italian poster maker. The rest is pretty much history.

From there the movie discusses how the photo moved into pop culture and eventually became commercialized. There is a lot of attention given to explaining the global cultural movements at the time and the lack of copyright laws in Cuba. Two of the main factors that led to the photo’s rapid reproduction. There are some great discussions about who Che was as a man and what he really stood for. 1hr and 8min. into the film we get a great interview by a Cuban American college student sticking it to people who think it’s cool to wear t-shirts with the image of Che on it without knowing who he actually was. “Unless you support violent revolution… you should not be wearing that shirt.” Two minutes later we get to watch a man be executed. His brains splatter against a wall as we’re informed about the type of government that Che was a part of. Nice.

I wouldn’t recommend Chevolution for everyone. The filmmaking isn’t captivating enough to hold your attention if you have no interest in the subject matter. However, two very specific audiences would benefit from watching this documentary: photographers who admire the history of their craft and people who think they know Che. Before watching the film I didn’t know who Che really was, let alone the history of his portrait. Now, I can at least look at his image with an iota of the understanding/respect it deserves.
 

Director: Luis Lopez & Trisha Ziff
Runtime: 88 Minutes
Distributor: Red envelope Entertainment
 

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