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download pdfChe at the Movies (HIST 365.01):
Che’s Women

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous,
let me say that the true revolutionary
is guided by a great feeling of love.”
-- Ernesto “Che” Guevara (1963)

Spring 2014, Truman State University
OP2121, W 6:00p - 8:50p
Office: MC 227 

Marc Becker
Office Hours: MW 1:30-2:20
Phone: x6036

Since his death in Bolivia in 1967, the Argentine guerrilla leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara has become a bigger than life icon. In recent years several of his diaries have been republished, and three feature films and numerous documentaries have been made about his life. In this class, we will watch these films and read his diaries with the double purpose of understanding twentieth-century revolutionary movements as well as the relative strengths and weaknesses of different media in portraying historical events. In particular, we will examine the question of whether Che’s idea of the Socialist New Man included women. After analyzing Che’s own diaries, feature films based on his diaries, secondary works about Che’s life, and documentaries that assume a broader perspective, we will create our own film that reflects Che’s views on gender.

Our goal in this class is to challenge existing assumptions, engage alternative viewpoints, and encourage critical thinking. Through the study of history, we seek to empower ourselves to be better citizens, and to provide ourselves with the skills necessary to play a positive and educated role in society. We need to be active constituents rather than mere recipients of our education. To accomplish those tasks, we should strive to create an open and supportive learning environment. Regular attendance and active participation are also necessary. Please drop me a note if you are unable to attend, or if you have any concerns or suggestions for improving the class.

The following are the required books for this class. We will run this course as a seminar (rather than a lecture course) in which class time will be focused on discussion, so it is critically important that you keep up with the readings.

Guevara, Ernesto Che. The Awakening of Latin America: A classic anthology of Che Guevara’s writings on Latin America. Melbourne, Vic: Ocean Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-0-9804292-8-2

________. The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes On A Latin American Journey. Melbourne: Ocean Press, 2004. ISBN: 978-1-920888-10-7

________. Diary of a Combatant: From the Sierra Maestra to Santa Clara (Cuba: 1956-58). Melbourne, Vic: Ocean Press, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-9870779-4-3

________. Congo Diary: Episodes of the Revolutionary War in the Congo. Melbourne, Vic: Ocean Press, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-9804292-9-9

________. The Bolivian Diary. Melbourne, Vic: Ocean, 2006. ISBN: 978-1-920888-24-4

Assignments and grades
            Course grades will be based on the following assignments. You can check your grade progress on the class Blackboard web page (there is a total of 1000 possible points in the class). Assignments are due at the beginning of class, and I do not accept “drop and run” papers or papers submitted without the physical presence of the student. Grades on late assignments will be penalized 10 percent for each day that they are late. Successful completion of all assignments is required to receive credit for this class.

            Assignment                                                                                         Points
                        Film presentation                                                                    100
                        Response papers (5 x 100 pts ea)                                          500
                        Book report and presentation (April 16)                               200
                        Final project (May 7)                                                             200

Film presentations (100 pts): Each student will present and lead the discussion of one feature film or documentary that we watch in class. An introduction should help set up the historical context for what we will watch, and the discussion should focus on the relative merits of the film including its ability to present and interpret historical events. Preview the film in advance, and write up a list of discussion questions or themes for the class. Consider questions such as these in preparing for your presentation:

  • Who is the director? What else has this person made and how does this film fit into that genre?
  • What evidence is there of historical research that the filmmaker conducted in the process of producing the film?
  • What is the potential and limitations of the medium of film for interpreting history as portrayed through this specific film?
  • What are the cinematographic virtues of the film?
  • How have other reviewers critiqued this film?

Please Note: It is your responsibility to pick up the film from Pickler library and bring it to class for viewing. In order to be sure that the film is not checked out when we need it in class, it is a good idea to put a hold on the film for a day or two before we watch it.

Response papers (100 pts each): For every book we read and the accompanying film we watch, critique how they present this part of the story of Che’s life with a particular focus on the issue of the relative strengths of different media to communicate and analyze historical events. The essays should be about three pages long, typed, double spaced, follow good essay form (have an intro, thesis, conclusion, etc.) and include citations, a bibliography, and page numbers.

Book report and presentation (200 pts): Select one book about Che Guevara from the following bibliograpy. Have me approve your selection, and then write an essay critiquing its argument. The essays should be about three pages long, typed, double spaced, follow good essay form (have an intro, thesis, conclusion, etc.) and include citations, a bibliography, and page numbers. On April 16, we will discuss your findings in class.

Final project (200 pts). As a class, make a film about Che’s views on gender. This will include conducting research on the topic, writing a script, designing costumes, filming the story, and finally editing the film (100 pts for your individual contributions, 100 pts for the project as a whole).

Class Schedule

Wk1 (Jan 15)  Introduction
            Screen: Chevolution (2010, 90 min, F2849.22.G85 C548 2010)

Wk2 (Jan 22)  Revolutionary theories
            Discuss: Guevara, The Awakening of Latin America
            Screen: Pierre Kalfon, El Che; Investigating a legend (1997, 90 min, F2849.22.G85 C54)

Wk3 (Jan 29)  Motorcycle Diaries
            Assignment due: Response essay 1
            Screen: Walter Salles, The Motorcycle Diaries (2005, 127 min, F2224 .G783 2005)

Wk4 (Feb 5)    Motorcycle Diaries
            Discuss: Guevara, Motorcycle Diaries; Guevara, The Awakening of Latin America, 28-40, 69-88

Wk5 (Feb 12)  Cuba
            Assignment due: Response essay 2
            Screen: Steven Soderbergh, Che Part One (2009, F1787.5 .G83132 2009)

Wk6 (Feb 19)  Cuba
            Discuss: Guevara, Diary of a Combatant

Wk7 (Feb 26)  Africa
            Assignment due: Response essay 3
            Screen: Jihan El-Tahri, Cuba, Une Odyssée Africaine (2008, 190 min., F1776.2 .C83 2007)

Wk8 (March 5)           Africa
            Discuss: Guevara, African Dream

Wk9 (March 19) Bolivia
            Assignment due: Response essay 4
            Screen: Steven Soderbergh, Che Part Two (2009, F1787.5 .G83132 2009)

Wk10 (March 26) Bolivia (documentary)
            Screen: Richard Dindo, Ernesto "Che" Guevara: The Bolivian diary (2009, 94 min., F2849.22.G85 E76 2009)

Wk11 (April 2)           Bolivia
            Discuss: Guevara, Bolivian Diary

Wk12 (April 9)           Film production
            Screen: Che Guevara: A Guerilla to the End (1999, 51 min., F2849.22.G85 C44 1999; online:
            Assignment due: Response essay 5

Wk13 (April 16) Book report presentations
            Screen: Cuba: Daughters of Fidel (1998, 60 min., online:

Wk14 (April 23) Film production
            Screen: A Rebel with a cause: death of a man, birth of a legend (1999, 26 min, online:

Wk15 (April 30) Film production
            Screen: Eduardo Montes-Bradley, Che, rise and fall (2007, 52 min., F2849.22.G85 C444 2007)

May 7: Film premiere

Bibliography (works marked with a * are key works)

* Anderson, Jon Lee. Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Grove Press, 1997.

Beckovic, Matija, Dusan Radovic, and Matija Beckovic. Che: a permanent tragedy. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1970.

Besancenot, Olivier and Michael Löwy. Che Guevara: His revolutionary legacy. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2009.

Cabrera Alvarez, Guillermo and Jonathan L Fried. Memories of Che. Secaucus, N.J: L. Stuart Inc, 1987.

Casey, Michael. Che's Afterlife: The legacy of an image. New York: Vintage Books, 2009.

* Castañeda, Jorge G. Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.

Castro, Fidel and David Deutschmann. Che: A memoir. Melbourne.  New York, NY: Ocean, 1994.

Debray, Regis. Che's guerrilla war. Harmondsworth.  Baltimore [etc.]: Penguin, 1975.

________. Revolution in the revolution? Armed struggle and political struggle in Latin America. New York: MR Press, 1967.

* Dosal, Paul J. Comandante: Che guerrilla soldier, commander, and strategist, 1956-1967. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003.

Drinot, Paulo, ed. Che's Travels: The making of a revolutionary in 1950s Latin America. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.

Ebon, Martin. Che: The Making of a Legend. New York: Signet Books, 1969.

* Estrada, Ulises. Tania: Undercover with Che Guevara in Bolivia. Melbourne, Vic, London: Ocean, 2005.

* Gadea, Hilda. My Life with Che: The making of a revolutionary, Fully rev. and updated ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

González, Luis J and Gustavo A. Sánchez Salazar. The great rebel; Che Guevara in Bolivia. New York: Grove Press, 1969.

Granado, Alberto. Traveling with Che Guevara: The making of a revolutionary. New York: Newmarket Press, 2004.

Harris, Richard L. Che Guevara a biography. Greenwood biographies. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood, 2011.

Harris, Richard L. Death of a Revolutionary: Che Guevara's Last Mission. New York: Collier Books, 1971.

Jacobson, Sid, and Ernie Colón. Che: a graphic biography. New York: Hill and Wang, 2009.

James, Daniel. Ché Guevara: A Biography. New York: Stein and Day, 1969.

Löwy, Michael. The Marxism of Che Guevara philosophy, economics, revolutionary warfare, 2d ed. Critical currents in Latin American perspective. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

* March, Aleida. Remembering Che: My Life With Che Guevara. Melbourne, Vic: Ocean Press, 2012.

McLaren, Peter. Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the Pedagogy of Revolution. Culture and education series. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000.

Piñeiro Losada, Manuel and Luis Suárez Salazar. Che Guevara and the Latin American Revolutionary Movements. Melbourne, New York, Chicago IL, USA: Ocean Press, 2001.

Pombo. Pombo: a man of Che's guerrilla: with Che Guevara in Bolivia. New York: Pathfinder, 1997.

Prado Salmón, Gary. The Defeat of Che Guevara: Military Response to Guerrilla Challenge in Bolivia. New York: Praeger, 1990.

Randall, Margaret. Che on my mind. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013.

Ratner, Michael and Michael Steven Smith. Che Guevara and the FBI the U.S. political police dossier on the Latin American revolutionary. Brooklyn, NY: Ocean Press, 1997.

Ratner, Michael, and Michael Steven Smith. Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder. OR Books, 2011.

Rodriguez, Felix I and John Weisman. Shadow warrior. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989.

Rojo, Ricardo. My friend Che. New York: Grove Press, 1968.

Ryan, Henry Butterfield. The fall of Che Guevara: a story of soldiers, spies, and diplomats. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Sandison, David. Che Guevara. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1997.

Sauvage, Leo. Che Guevara; the failure of a revolutionary. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall, 1973.

Sinay, Sergio. Che for Beginners. New York: Writers and Readers Publishing, Inc., 1997.

Sinclair, Andrew. Che Guevara. Modern Masters. New York: The Viking Press, 1970.

Spain, Rodriguez and Paul Buhle. Che: a graphic biography. London, New York: Verso, 2008.

Symmes, Patrick. Chasing Che: A motorcycle journey in search of the Guevara legend. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.

Tablada Perez, Carlos. Che Guevara, economics and politics in the transition to socialism. Sydney, Australia.  New York, NY, USA: Pathfinder, 1989.

* Taibo, Paco Ignacio. Guevara, Also Known as Che. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.

Waters, Mary-Alice. Che Guevara and the fight for socialism today: Cuba confronts the world crisis of the '90s. New York, NY, U.S.A: Pathfinder, 1992.

Yaffé, Helen. 'Che' Guevara: The economics of revolution. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Ziff, Trisha, Victoria and Albert Museum, and California Museum of Photography. Che Guevara, revolutionary & icon. New York: Abrams Image, 2006.

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