Dreams That Die – Extract

Dreams That Die

In 2003, during the run-up to the war in Iraq, I was living in Hollywood, where at the time I was working as Ben Affleck’s stand-in on the movie Surviving Christmas. The experience is recounted in my book, Dreams That Die, just published by Zero Books. Given that Affleck has just won the BAFTA for the movie Argo, and with this week marking the tenth anniversary of the historic international day of protest on February 15 2003, here is an extract from the book on my experience on the set of the movie in the immediate aftermath of the February 15 demo in Los Angeles.

The Monday after the demonstration saw me arrive for the start of another week on the movie in high spirits. The enormous size and number of demonstrations that had taken place around the world had hit the headlines, managing to knock the pro-war consensus within the mainstream off the front pages of all the major newspapers, as well as relegating them in order of importance on the TV news bulletins.

On the set it was interesting to hear the differing opinions of the antiwar movement. More than a few, consisting of those who supported Bush without equivocation or condition and wholeheartedly believed in the ‘mission’ to get Saddam, dismissed the protesters as traitors. Others, more liberal in outlook, though still of the belief that the US was the greatest nation on earth, abhorred the Bush administration. Conscious of what they referred to as ‘America’s place in the world’, which they viewed as a shining example of other nations to follow rather than a hammed to be feared and loathed, they watched aghast as Bush and his cronies set about turning their beloved country into a rogue state. The liberal antiwar stance they espoused was reflective of the view that the US should only go to war against Iraq under a UN mandate and not unilaterally. They weren’t concerned about the damage already that had already been done to the Iraqi people by the sanctions, nor were they overly concerned at the prospect of innocent Iraqis being blown to smithereens if the US went ahead and attacked. Their primary concern was the welfare of the troops (our boys) and America’s image and standing in the eyes of the world. In other words, they supported the same aims as the neocons – namely US domination – but advocated different, subtler means of achieving those aims. This difference in form not content is what separated Democrats and Republicans and had done more or less throughout the nation’s history.

By now word had gotten round that I was involved in the antiwar movement, and I began to detect hostility from various quarters as a consequence. Affleck’s bodyguard Scott for example had taken to throwing me dirty looks when he wasn’t ignoring me completely. The same with his personal assistant. Too bad.

There remained one of two sympathetic voices on the crew as well, though. Sadly they weren’t very vocal, preferring to keep their antiwar and anti-Bush sentiments quiet. Their reluctance to speak out was illustrative of the fear, now commonplace, of being labelled unpatriotic or anti-American. It was a fear prevalent not just on the set of this movie but within the country as a whole.

Later that day another UN debate was due to be held on Iraq, on whether or not the Iraqi government was complying with the inspections that were now scouring the country looking for stockpiles of WMD. Despite being at work, I was determined to listen to some of the proceedings on the radio one way or another, especially now that events were approaching the point of no return.

Finally, Manny the DP announced that the shot was ready and the call went up for first team. Along with my fellow stand-ins, I began making my way off the set to make way for the principals, who began to arrive in their usual ones and twos. James Gandolfini as ever was the first to appear, hitting everyone with his customary jovial smile and friendly greeting as he took up his position. I was just heading over to the corner of the soundstage where the stand-ins were congregated when the soundstage door opened and in came Affleck’s entourage, followed by the man himself. Standing directly in their path it was a moment that called for acknowledgement in the form of a nod or a polite greeting. But this was Hollywood, where a different kind of normality prevailed, and all five of them walked right past me as if I didn’t exist, had never existed, and would never exist in any shape or form worthy of recognition. I continued on over to my chair and picked up the book I was reading – the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederich Engels – and resumed reading where I’d left off.

‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freemen and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.’

Five or ten minutes later, I got up again and began walking across the soundstage in the direction of the exit, heading for the bathroom. As I passed the set I could hear the voices of Ben Affleck and his many sycophants, interspersed with loud laughter. Suddenly, Affleck led off on a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Almost immediately he was joined by others, until the entire set was united in song.

I continued on my way to the bathroom. What else could I do? I was desperate for a shit.

Dreams That Die is currently available from Word Power Books

 

 

Tarantino, Alex Jones and the Ongoing Controversy of Gun Control and Violence in America

Interesting to see Tarantino become animated in his refusal to discuss violence in his movies. In the US the ongoing controversy of gun control in the wake of recent massacres and school shootings, the latest yesterday in Los Angeles, shows little sign of abating.

Britain’s Piers Morgan has found himself cast as the bete noire of the pro-gun lobby for using his CNN show to argue for gun control, with a petition calling for his deportation being instigated by shock jock and conspiracy nut Alex Jones.

Below the Tarantino interview is the YouTube of Jones’s tirade at Morgan during a recent interview about gun control.

Still Chained: Django, Tarantino and the Exploitation of Black History

Django-Unchained-Leoby Ewuare X Osayande

I am not a fan of Quentin Tarantino or his movies. I find his treatment of race, gender and class issues trivial and demeaning, lacking any depth whatsoever.

He is a member of a generation of white men who were weaned on a version of Blackness that was served from the shelves of corporate America in the mid-70s. Let him tell it, it was in the theaters watching films like “Shaft” and “Superfly” that he discovered his desire to become a filmmaker.

Blaxploitation films were Hollywood’s answer to the Black Power and Black Arts movements of the late Sixties. In these films we witness the real aspirations of working class Black people at that time as evidenced by organizations such as The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense turned inside out, gutted of all political relevance. These films became the canvas for white men to project their guilt-ridden fantasies of racial retribution. They turned our self-defined expression into a fashion statement, a corporate-sponsored slogan propped up on the billboards that scoured the skylines of ghettos across the country. Tarantino’s fascination with Black culture is not based on actual experience or concern with Black people’s organized struggle for justice, self-determination and liberation. It is based on his coming-of-age white boy experience with commercialized Blackness as filtered through the lens of Hollywood’s B-rated white directors, producers and executives.

So when I walked into the theaters to watch “Django Unchained,” I wasn’t expecting much. What I was expecting was what I have come to expect from a Tarantino film – gratitutous violence intermingled with homoerotic overtones, the overt exploitation of women and a sadistic use of the n-word. The thing is that in doing a film that proposes to treat the issue of slavery in the United States, such images and usages would be required given the obscene and brutal reality that slavery was. So, again, I was expecting Tarantino to have a field day. The problem with Tarantino’s film lies not in that he made use of such images; the problem is in how he used them.

Tarantino’s film was not as violent as I thought it would be or could have been. In fact, he was restrained. Slavery in the United States was violence unmitigated and without restraint.  To define it otherwise, is to tell the most blatant of lies. Tarantino’s treatment of violence of slavery was timid in comparison to the daily reality faced by enslaved Africans. That said, the film failed to faithfully depict the Black men and women that lived under slavery. In “Django Unchained,” Black women are cast as mindless vixens and willing sexual liaisons to white men. Having a white master named “Big Daddy” (with all of its 70’s pimp nostalgia in tact) being called upon affectionately by enslaved women is a disservice to the memories of women like Harriet Jacobs, who resisted the sexual advances of her slave master for seven years by hiding away in the crawl space above a porch. Although Tarantino does manage to portray Kerry Washington’s Broomhilda as having agency (she runs away twice in the film), she never manages to escape the typical patriarchal frame being cast as a mere object for the hero’s affection. Rather than escaping slavery on her own merit, she is made to be rescued by her prince on horseback … and Harriet Tubman rolls over in her grave.

In Tarantino’s homoerotic white patriarchal fantasy we witness what is rare in American cinema – a blockbuster film that portrays the Black man as “the hero that rescues the girl and kills everyone that dares to stand in his way.” The problem with this is that the depiction of Django is a parody of history. From the moment Django and Schultz step out of the saloon facing an entire town of angry white men with their guns aimed at their faces, I knew that what would come after this would render the rest of the film mere fantasy. And from that scene to the last, every interaction Django has with a white man is unrealistic and unfaithful to the history the story is set in.

No, this film is not history. Neither is it historical. Tarantino does what white men do. Rewrite history. The facts are irrelevant. For white filmmakers, truth is in the mind of the beholder. When it comes to the Black experience, they can do what they have done to Black people throughout American history – whatever they please.

For me, the greater crime in this regard goes to Spielberg and his film “Lincoln.” Spielberg promotes this film as being true to history, yet leaves out a critical player in that history. For him to make a film about Abraham Lincoln and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and not include Frederick Douglass is be akin to someone making a film about Lyndon Johnson and the signing of the Voting Rights Act and leave out Dr. King. Incredible, right? Yet, that is exactly what Spielberg did.

I did find Tarantino’s treatment of white people interesting in this movie. He does a decent job of treating the dynamics of whiteness as played out in the plantation system – and in the process makes a statement on whiteness as it is played out today. He showcases white men who are enforcers of the plantation system. These white men do not own plantations, themselves. They merely work to enforce the plantation system. But that is not meant to diminish the power they wield over the lives of the enslaved. Even mired in ignorance and illiteracy, they still command a clear authority above the very Africans who are more intelligent than they are – as evidenced by the character of Django. This dynamic is played out very well in the scene where one of Candie’s “Mandigoes” is captured after attempting escape. In it, we see a dialogue between Candie and one of his white overseers whose garbled words are not intelligible, whatsoever. That scene was a telling indictment on the wage of whiteness that was paid out to buy the systemic complicity of impoverished whites who had more in common with enslaved Africans than the men and women who exploited them both. But that one scene and scenes like it were undermined by the comedic atmosphere that surrounded them throughout the film, enabling most viewers to just laugh it off and miss the message.

“Django Unchained” is a knock-off of Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 spaghetti western. According to Austin Fisher’sRadical Frontiers in the Spaghetti Western: Politics, Violence and Popular Italian Cinema, Sergio Corbucci’s films were revolutionary efforts to dramatize the brutality of the Italian state at a time when the working class were literally in the streets protesting policies they considered neo-fascist. Many of the directors of these films found inspiration from the writings of Che Guevera, Mao Tse-Tung, Leon Trotsky and Frantz Fanon! Imagine what kind of film Tarantino could have made had he injected “Django Unchained” with the philosophy of a Fanon. But that would have been too much work for Tarantino. He can’t seem to get past his juvenile obsession with gun-fire, bloodshed and gore to investigate the political messages that lie behind the bullets.

One of the most disturbing moments in the film was when Candie snorts “Why don’t they [the enslaved Africans] just rise up?” The rhetorical remark plays into the American white supremacist myth that Black people passively accepted slavery. No white slave owner conscious of the history of just his lifetime would make such an unchallenged statement in the late 1850′s. He would surely know the story of Nat Turner. He would certainly have been told of the conspiracies of Denmark Vesey and Gabriel Prosser. And that is just the short-list. In placing such ahistoric commentary in the film, Tarantino does more than lie on the history of slavery, he trashes the legacies of true Black heroes.

In keeping with his desire to mash up Blaxploitation and Spaghetti Westerns, he messed over the memory of a people still chained by the legacy of slavery. In an interview on NPR he was asked what he thought about his film premiering soon after the Sandy Hook mass shooting. A more appropriate question in light of the film’s subject matter would be to consider how his film glorifies the gun violence that has too many young Black men  believing they can shoot their way out of the conflicts they encounter on the street. His film aggrandizes a violence that is not history but present day reality. A reality that has the Black community left grappling with the crippling effects of a startling statistic: there are as many Black people in the criminal justice system today as there were Black people enslaved in the late 1850′s. Fact is, shooting one’s self out of slavery was a much riskier venture than the film proposes. The system knew and knows how to handle that. Black men and women had to be and were smarter than that. They came together and organized collectively. They had to outfox the fox. I am referring to men like Robert Smalls who stole a ship right under the noses of the Confederate army and liberated himself and a band of his fellows and their families. He would go on to become one of the first Black elected officials from the South to serve in the U.S. Congress.

Tarantino could have tried to make a film about any number of great Black men and women who beat slavery on their own terms. Thing is, making such a film would require having a real relationship with Black struggle. Tarantino is confused. He believes that dabbling in stereotypes is the equivalent to treating the Black experience. He doesn’t have a real relationship with Black people, our history, our culture, our reality. And he doesn’t want one. To paraphrase Frederick Douglass he wants Blackness without the struggle.

With “Django Unchained,” Tarantino is saying to Black people, “I know Hollywood won’t let y’all make a movie like this, so let me do it for you.” He is one of those whites who believe they can use their privilege for the benefit of the oppressed. But in the process, what real benefits are gained?

As the Black intelligentsia and artistic elite bemoan and debate the merits of this film, there is a greater concern here that is being missed – our  lack of control and influence in Hollywood. Yes, it is true – a Black person could not have gotten this film made in Hollywood. Even truer, a Black person cannot get any film green-lighted in Hollywood that attempts to tell the story of slavery in the Americas as it actually happened. Just ask famed actor Danny Glover who has been working for years to get a film made on the Haitian Revolution. In 2008 Glover, appearing at a press conference in Paris, stated that Hollywood financiers dismissed the film stating that it lacked white heroes. The racism of the industry remains as virulent as when the first Hollywood film “A Birth of a Nation” appeared in theaters across the country. The NAACP picketed that film in 1915. This year, “Django Unchained” is up for four NAACP awards. Is this a sign of progress or of something else? Such valorization of Hollywood and films that Hollywood produces casts a long shadow over the incredible films that are being produced by independent Black filmmakers. We lack a viable organization that would check Hollywood’s racism as well as highlight the considerable and valuable work being done by Black filmmakers not chained to the deep pockets of the likes of 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. or Columbia. Sad fact is that Black actors in Hollywood, those that could bankroll such an organization or such an effort, are still chained to the executive offices of these corporations. Thus, we are left with great Black actors confined to roles that leave us engaged in a debate that does little to empower us, either economically or culturally.

Tarantino has stated that there are many great films that have yet to be made on the subject of slavery. I agree. “Django Unchained” is not one of them. Until we are able to pay our ten or twelve dollars to see Glover’s story of Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Haitian Revolution brought to the silver screen or any other film on slavery that has the gall to tell it like it was without apology and that captures the victorious spirit of our people’s struggle, I encourage you to search out Haile Gerima’s “Sankofa.” You will not be disappointed.

Ewuare X. Osayande (www.osayande.org) is a poet, essayist and political activist. He is founder and director of POWER: People Organized Working to Eradicate Racism. Follow his work on Facebook: Ewuare Xola Osayandeand Twitter: @EwuareXOsayande. His latest book is entitled Whose America?

John Wight on Sidney Lumet

In tribute to film director Sidney Lumet, who died on April 9 at the age of 86, here are clips from what to my mind were his three greatest movies – Twelve Angry Men (1957) with Henry Fonda; The Hill (1965) with Sean Connery; and Dog Day Afternoon (1975) with Al Pacino.

Lumet was a master at merging social realism with psychodrama, as the three examples posted illustrate. He was also a great humanitarian, a liberal filmmaker who depicted his characters with tremendous sympathy and who managed to coax classic and career defining performances from some of cinema’s finest actors.  Sean Connery’s performance in The Hill, for example, was in my opinion the best of his career, though Harry Andrews does come close to outshining him.

Movies which stand the test of time are rare. Rarer still is the director who directs not just one timeless work but three in a career, as Lumet did.

He was without a shadow of a doubt one of the finest film directors of the 20th century, ahead of his time both in terms of the themes he tackled and the craftsmanship he brought to the execution of those themes. Twelve Angry Men, if pitched as an idea today, would be rejected as being too uncinematic and dialogue heavy. The ability to carry a movie set in one location, which Lumet did by dividing up that one location into multiple locations, and sustain the tension throughout, was a work of cinematic genius.

He was a great believer in extensive periods of rehearsal with his actors before shooting began, anapproach which many directors scorn as the death knell of spontaneity. But as Lumet himself said: “All great work is preparing yourself for the accident to happen.”

In his case the ‘accident’ happened time after time.

Class and Gender in Sex and the City

sex-and-the-city1.jpgAs Sex and the City 2 is now polluting cinemas everywhere with its mix of post-feminist neoliberalism and barely concealed racism (review here), I thought I’d dig my take on the original from out of the archive and give it a brush down for Socialist Unity.

When a film has “every woman in her twenties coming to New York is looking for two Ls: Labels and Love” as the opening line, you know you’re in for a pretty vacuous two hours 20 minutes. And so it is with Sex and the City’s big screen adaptation.So the plot, such as it exists, is all about those two little Ls. Fans and casual viewers of the show know it looked like Carrie Bradshaw had finally found her happy ever after at the end of the series’ six-year run. Her on-off relationship with Big was definitely on the last time we saw them. And this is how the film opens. A blissfully happy Carrie and Big are out apartment hunting and settle on a place you’d never get a shared ownership deal on. Being an attentive and knowing boyfriend, Big gifts Carrie a closet the size of my street. But beneath the happiness is a slight ripple of unease. The serpent in Carrie’s romantic idyll is Big’s aversion to marriage. So what does she do when he tentatively suggests they tie the knot? Carrie arranges a gaudy Hello-style marriage with ostentatious Vogue photo shoots, an absurd Vivienne Westwood dress and a society guest list including all of Park Avenue. It’s a wonder she didn’t ask the Pope to officiate.

It’s a set up just begging to go wrong, and it does. Big gets cold feet and the wedding doesn’t take place. The girls – Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha accompany Carrie on her pre-booked honeymoon to Mexico to comfort her. And in a mini-adventure involving sunsets, pubic hair and a very public bathroom malfunction, Carrie begins to make a slow recovery.

As was the case with Sex and the City on TV, Carrie’s troubles are reflected in the sub-plots of her friends. Samantha’s discontented about her life with actor boyfriend Smith. His long hours and her isolation in Los Angeles constantly tempt her to stray, but she manages to remain faithful by turning to food. Charlotte – who is something of a waste of space in the movie – falls pregnant. And Miranda separates from on-off partner Steve after he admits to a one nighter with another woman. As the film grinds itself toward the inevitable Hollywood ending, a new character is introduced when Carrie takes on Louise as her personal assistant. She helps Carrie reorganise her life while Carrie in turn sees her as a representative of the new generation of New York women. Cue many a moment when she gives Louise the benefit of her accumulated wisdom.

By the end everything has come good again … until the inevitable sequel that is. It is a formulaic piece, the jokes are rather flat, the sex is neither titillating or risque and the last four years haven’t been kind to the format. But when it is all said and done, you have a movie that the fans will adore.

Sex and the City has been critiqued as a celebration of post-feminism. That is the notion feminism is no longer relevant to women’s lives because structural gender inequalities have largely withered away. The same choices and privileges long enjoyed by men are now available to women. Whether one pursues a traditional feminine trajectory (Charlotte) or seeks meaning and happiness independently of heterosexual monogamy (Samantha), it is simply a matter of choice, and it is a choice open to all women. This is the essence of Sex and the City. The characters are free to pursue their projects of self though an endless merry go round of fashion shows, restaurants, bars, shops and exclusive parties. What makes their post-feminist orgy of consumption possible is their freedom from (economic) necessity. Because all four occupy privileged class locations it makes it possible for them to erase any presentation of that position.

This is nothing new. The culture of the ruling class has long eschewed references to the crude business of how one makes money. Take Jane Austen, for example. Most of her characters effortlessly make their ways through life on the back of inherited fortunes, allowing them to devote themselves to finding a husband, match-making and attending balls. The same is true of here. Carrie is a writer and we often see her tapping a few lines into her laptop without any real degree of effort. Samantha owned a PR firm and became Smith’s manager as his acting career took off. Charlotte appears to do nothing and secures her living from her wealthy lawyer husband. In fact the only one who ever moans about work is Miranda, who is also a lawyer, but a lawyer whose work is completely invisible and never intrudes into the Sex and the City universe. Theirs is a life where identity is defined by consumption.

This erasing of class through the ostentatious display of class privilege has historically set the tone for formations of femininity. Through their privileged access to economic and cultural capital the experience of bourgeois women defines what it is to be feminine for all women of all classes. Their experience is the norm and therefore unsurprising their lifestyles are marketed as the aspirational ideal. Carrie’s singling out of labels and love is significant because they are the foundation of this world. It is the dialectical interplay of the two on which her femininity hangs – femininity is performed through the consumption of trendy labels and services. The better one is able to strategically deploy this style, the more desirable one is to (bourgeois) men, the more one’s femininity is affirmed and the greater the chance of landing a wealthy partner. In turn the rich boyfriend/husband provides an effortless income enabling a richer cultivation of femininity. That at least is the aspiration.

For working class women who aspire to this dominant mode of femininity, a number of strategies are available. The only working class character in the movie is Louise. She is black, hails from St Louis, has recently graduated with a degree in computer science and hasn’t got two pennies to rub together (it is interesting that as the only black character of any note to have ever appeared in Sex and the City, Louise is cast in a servile and subordinate position). But she is a woman who buys into the lifestyle Carrie leads. They may be a different class, the relationship between them is a power relation in which Carrie holds all the cards, but their shared femininity successfully obscures the true character of the relationship for both women. Like Carrie, Louise came to New York in search of those two Ls. Louise has had her heart broken by a man she still loves as well, so there is shared pain. Despite having no money Louise manages to keep up feminine appearances by renting the latest handbags, much to Carrie’s approval. And as Carrie’s PA, Louise is able to feminise her computer science knowledge by building her a professional website and creating a secret folder of emails from a penitent Big in the hope Carrie will stumble across them and give the relationship yet another chance. So by pleasing this bourgeois woman, Louise paradoxically confirms her working class location by acting in such a way that suppresses it, and it is a behaviour Carrie is all too keen to encourage.

Discussing the film on Newsnight Review, Paul Morley suggested Sex and the City is the last swan song for a gilded age that is now passing from the scene. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Cable and digital channels are packed with “reality” shows chronicling privileged lives that make Carrie and the girls look like Calvinists. Despite the increasing social distance between those featured in such programmes and their audiences, there will be a greater demand for shows and films that offer an escape from the grinding class-bounded realities of most women, and this will particularly be the case as the credit crunch and economic slow down start to bite.

Che: part one

che-guevara.jpg 

Che Guevara along with Fidel Castro travelled to Cuba by boat from Mexico during late 1956. Of the 82 people on that boat only a handful saw the revolution of 1959.  Steven Soderbergh’s sympathetic portrayal of the revolutionary, which frankly, I would have given the film more than the 3 stars Guardian’s film critic Peter Bradshaw awarded it. Firstly, Bradshaw compares it to the Motorcycle Diaries by Walter Salles that depicts a young Ernesto Guevara’s travels and it is indeed a lyrical, moving and poignant film that explores his developing political consciousness. And Bradshaw’s contention is that Soderbergh doesn’t get under Che’s skin, a kind of what made the revolutionary tick. Well, the film is based on Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War where Che documents his experiences of guerilla warfare. It’s not a touchy-feely intimate portrayal and I certainly didn’t expect that. I expected a more documentary feel to the film. And that’s what you get.

The film starts in late 1956 where Che meets Fidel Castro. They had the belief of organising a revolution in Cuba and overthrowing the dictator Batista. At the same time the films shifts to 1964 where he speaks at the UN and is interviewed. It is wonderfully stylish  cinematography grainy black/white scene where there are scenes that you only partially glimpse Che. It’s reduced to iconic aspects of him such as his cigar, part of his head and so on. And then it would be back to the organising and the fighting in technicolour.

Much of the film, obviously, is made up of the fighting and I found it convincing. Che leading columns of rebel fighters. We see his disciplinary approach, tactical manoeuvres, relationship with the Soviet Union, and behaving as a doctor. To his fellow comrades he is ‘Che’ or ‘the doctor’. We see him recruiting men and women to fight though he turns people who can’t read or write away. In one scene when he asks a group of people who could read and write, only three put up their hands and one includes a woman. That’s the other thing about this film is that you witness men and women fighting together. And the fact that women are taking part shows a political and social difference.

The battles fought in the moutains and in the towns is well captured. Fighting from building to building, street to street is portrayed. There is a documentary feel about those scenes were the camera shakes when people are involved in running battles. Scenes involving the police handing over their weapons to the rebel fighters. Certainly, soldiers were known to go over the side to the rebels by explaining their politics and treating them ok, a tactic that was successful.

Overall, it is a sympathetic portrayal of Che. Benicio Del Toro encompasses the physical demeanour and comes across as Che Guevara (Del Toro is also one of the producers for the film). It seeks not to romanticise Che but give a graphic description of guerilla warfare and revolution. Also, it was uplifting to see the ruling class on the run.

At the time of the Cuban revolution there was anti-colonial struggles in Kenya, Algeria, Vietnam, Egypt, Iraq, Malaya, Congo. So there was a whole series of struggles that influenced and developed political consciousness. And only 10 years previously there was the revolution in China.

So it is now 50 years since the Cuban revolution when Che Guevara and Fidel Castro entered Havana. The blockade still exists, USA lurking in the background waiting and hoping and even with all this Cuba has tried to survive. Yes, a deformed workers’ state addled by Stalinist bureaucracy. But still worth defending…..

Though Soderbergh has done part 2 which, at the end of part 1, you see Castro and Che talking in late 1956 Mexico. Che says if there’s revolution in Cuba there should be revolutions in the whole of Latin America. And it doesn’t bode well for him but I doubt if Soderbergh will change the ending and have Che, Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin holed up in some bar talking famous icons while smoking cigars and drinking hard liquor…. unfortunately…