Two, three, many portraits!

2008 November 30

Alberto Korda, Guerrillero Heroico, 1960

Alberto Korda, "Guerrillero Heroico," 1960

Trisha Ziff and Luis Lopez’s 2008 documentary Chevolution is a compelling and comprehensive chronicle of the iconic portrait that inspired generations of activists and launched an equal number of marginally-related products. Merging the story of the short, fierce life of the Argentine-born Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his part in the Cuban Revolution with that of the former Cuban fashion photographer Alberto “Korda” Díaz Gutiérrez and the picture he took at a “decisive moment” during a March 5, 1960 Havana memorial rally, this ninety-minute film is an original, unusually sophisticated, wide-ranging, and yet very accessible cultural and social history. Lushly photographed, hopping around the globe, and including the testimony of Korda’s contemporaries, Che biographers, scholars, artists, politicians, politicos, a sprinkling of actors who have played Che, and a myriad of unidentified people, Chevolution is a rarity in successfully conveying an international perspective. While unapologetically admiring Che, the film also does not hesitate to chronicle his flaws and the views of his foes; even more importantly, it demonstrates how Che’s image has become, in the semiotician Roland Barthe’s apt phrase, a floating chain of signifieds that has operated as an activist emblem almost as much as it has been used to signify nothing—or, rather, everything: the ultimate symbol of consumption. Moreover, in keeping with the best documentaries, Chevolution unhinges assumptions and shibboleths; its closing account of Korda’s, and subsequently the Korda estate’s, exercise of copyright will challenge proponents of property-rights and fair-use alike. Chevolution will be screened at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, on January 19, 2009—keep an eye out for this one.

Last 5 posts by Josh Brown

No Comments

Comments are closed for this entry.