Photos and Video
The iconic image of Ernesto "Che" Guevara is everywhere, from T-shirts to coffee mugs and even bikinis. How was the hero of Cuba's Communist Revolution transformed into a capitalist selling machine? With mordant wit and bitter irony, filmmakers Trisha Ziff and Luis Lopez trace the evolution of the image from photograph to poster to pop art, as cropping and the removal of half-tones separated the moment from history and created an icon whose meaning was increasingly in the eye of the beholder. We meet Diana Díaz, the daughter of Alberto Korda, a fashion photographer-turned-newspaperman who took the picture at a funeral march in 1959, unaware that it would soon become the most reproduced image in the history of photography; Jim Fitzpatrick, the Irish artist who turned the photograph into an eyeball-searing pop art graphic; and author Carlos Calica Ferrer, who recalls his life-altering motorcycle trips with a young Ernesto through Latin America. Antonio Banderas, Gael García Bernal, Shin Fein president Gerry Adams, and masked Zapatistas in Chiapas weigh in on Che's enduring inspiration to new generations of the disenfranchised. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine reveals the band's run-in with Díaz's lawyers, who are well occupied suing for unauthorized use of her father's photograph. In this thought-provoking inquiry into the ethics and aesthetics of appropriation, Ziff and Lopez investigate how the enduring symbol of not only the Cuban Revolution but of 1968 Paris, Prague, Belfast, and Berkeley was ultimately devoured by capitalism.
Director's Statement Collapse
Chevolution looks at the famous image of Che Guevara—it tells the story of what is considered to be the most reproduced image in the history of photography. Titled “Guerillero Heroico,” the photograph initially went unpublished in Revolución, the daily paper in Havana where photographer Alberto “Korda” Diaz was on assignment. Yet somehow, this picture went on to have an extraordinary status both in the history of photography and within popular culture. Our film asks, why this image? Why Che Guevara?
Chevolution looks at both the story behind the omnipresent photo and the ways in which it took on a life of its own, proliferating across class and culture. Today in the west, the image spans the spectrum from frivolous fashion statement to a generic symbol of protest. There are anti-war Ches, “green” Ches, Ches used to sell Swatch, Smirnoff, lip balm, and lingerie. In the majority of the world, this portrait continues to represent a beacon for minority voices and indigenous struggles. It is also an image which has become synonymous with independent vision and thinking.
From Che cool to Chesucristu, Chevolution explores how international capitalism co-opts the symbols it opposes—be it a Maoist star, a hammer and sickle, or Che in a beret. Over time, Korda's portrait has essentially become divorced from the man, his life, and his legacy, but it still remains associated with a romanticized version of his ideals. In that incarnation, it has become a generic symbol of change, hope, and inspiration to a diverse range of people across the globe.
Through original footage, interviews, vox pops, street scenes, and the vast archival collections of Che images and posters from Cuba and elsewhere, our film looks at the complexity and contradictions of what this photograph means today.
Film Information Collapse
Cast & Credits Collapse
Principal Cast Gerry Adams, Jon Lee Anderson, Antonio Banderas, Shepard Fairey, Gael García Bernal, Tom Morello
Writers Sylvia Stevens, Trisha Ziff
Editor Luis Lopez
Producer Trisha Ziff
Co-Producers Caroline Spry, Evangeline Griego
Executive Producers Bahman Naraghi, Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, Wouter Barendrecht, Michael J. Werner
About the Director(s)Collapse
Trisha Ziff is a curator of contemporary photography, filmmaker, and Guggenheim scholar. She produced the documentary Oaxacalifornia, coproduced My Mexican Shiva, and executive produced 9months 9days. She has also worked in the North of Ireland, where she founded Camerawork Derry, a photography and film workshop, in the 1980s. Her next film as producer is Between Dog and Wolf. Luis Lopez is from Tijuana, Mexico. He cofounded the production/design company LargeLab. His film credits include King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (associate producer, coeditor, cinematographer), Shut Up & Sing (producer, cinematographer), Punk Like Me (associate producer, cinematographer), and Dixie Chicks: Top of the World (producer, director, editor).