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International Film Festival of Kerala 2008 -Day 1- Chevolution

After a seven day cinematic extravaganza the International Film Festival of Kerala, 2008 draws to a close with the Closing Ceremony yesterday. The delectable treat of cinema was more than enough to satisfy any movie lover's tastes.With renowned Film makers from around the world, like Idrissa Ouedraogo, Lucia Murat, Sitora Alieva, Samira Makhmalbaf, Uberto Pasilini and many more, gracing the festival as a jury member or in “Meet the Directors” segment, the festival became a well organized event.

Day 1
The festival started out really slow for me with only one documentary under my belt at the end of the first day but that single documentary made my day.

Not many people in the world doesn't know who Che Guevara is. For most he is a revolutionary hero, for some a masterful guerrilla tactician, for some a mass murderer and yet for some others the guy on T-shirts. Such is the impact made by a single man on World History. A large part of that impact and the widely spread recognition of his face is a single photograph.

Chevolution, a Cuban documentary by Luis Lopez and Trish Ziff, is a thorough and compelling investigation of the Che mythology and the essential malleability of the Che icon. Why did the image became so prevalent after 1967, and how has it meant so many things to so many different people? Chevolution asks all the right questions and gracefully allows us to answer them ourselves. In the documentary, producer/director Trisha Ziff and director Luis Lopez explore the Che phenomenon from all angles, including the revolutionary's early life, his fateful encounter with Castro, the Cuban revolution he helped make happen, to his life trying to foment revolutions in other countries. But it also examines how he crossed paths with photographer Alberto Korda, the fashion photographer/photojournalist who took the famous picture of Guevara that was the basis for the icon we know today.

The photograph taken by Alberto Korda was immortalised in World History and took up many meanings from Revolution to Rebellion to just a “fad”. The symbolic photograph was taken on March 5, 1960, in Havana, Cuba, at a memorial service for victims of the La Coubre explosion(which is believed to be the work of CIA but not solved to this date). This was an information that was new to me and made me see the photograph in a new light. I saw the meaning behind Che's eyes which shouts out his sadness, fury, determination, disappointment and action. Passed out to the occasional friend and published in a few small Cuban publications, Che’s image remained relatively unknown for 7 years. The photograph was then acquired by wealthy Italian publisher and intellectual Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in 1967. As Guevara's eventual capture or death appeared to be imminent with the CIA closing in on his whereabouts, Feltrinelli acquired the rights to publish Che's captured Bolivian Diary. Upon his return to Italy, Feltrinelli disseminated thousands of copies of the poster to raise awareness of Che's precarious situation and impending demise. Later in 1968 after his October 9, 1967 execution, Che's Bolivian Diary with Korda's photo on the cover was released worldwide. Feltrinelli also created posters to promote the book, which sold over 1 million copies. By this time, Korda's image had officially entered the public consciousness.

In 1967, Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick was also using Korda's image as a basis for creating his own stylized posters which is the start of the graphic Che image's origin.
“The first image I did of Che was psychedelic, it looks like he is in seaweed. His hair was not hair, it was shapes that I felt gave it an extra dimension. That was the image I produced for the magazine and that was done before he died and that is the important thing about that image. At first it did not print. It was considered far too strong and revolutionary. I was very inspired by Che's trip to Bolivia. He went there with the intent to overthrow the intensely corrupt government, helped by the Americans at the time, and that's where he died. I thought he was one of the greatest men who ever lived and I still do in many ways. And when he was murdered, I decided I wanted to do something about it, so I created the poster. I felt this image had to come out, or he would not be commemorated otherwise, he would go where heroes go, which is usually into anonymity.” —Jim Fitzpatrick, 2005

Soon Che became the face of every revolution across the world. His posters became kind of an inspiration to all those who were oppressed. He became the hero of the oppressed. Since in Cuba they didn't believe in copyrights on images this image became a public domain image and thus spurred thousand and millions of copies around the world. Every artist brought out their own version of the graphic. But somewhere down the line the photograph turned icon lost its initial means or rather the meaning was watered down. The iconic image of revolution was watered down to rebellion, and eventually to pop culture.

Pop culture welcomed Che with open hands and made it one of his minions and eventually lead to the hands of the capitalists who used the image shamelessly for their own profit. Those very people against whom Che fought began to use his image as a means to increase their profit. Che's image started to appear on all sorts of products including Liquor and Tobacco. It is despicable to see its derogatory use for all sorts of things Che stood up against.

But nonetheless the image doesn't loose its iconic meaning all together. The image is still seen an a symbol of revolution, a symbol of protest against the oppressors, of socialist ideologies. I have been always a little bit slanted to left ideologies for a long time and consequently I have considerable knowledge on who Che is and what he did for the people. One doesn't have to be a communist or even socialist to see what Che did was nothing short of greatness. To Throw away a life of aristocracy and to enter the revolutionary movement for the betterment of the people is a feat in itself. Most of us think about the atrocities in this world, shake our head and carry on with our daily routine. But he saw the oppression in people and dedicated his life to the cause. He did something about it. That's what makes him a hero.

A rating is really not in place here as the level of enjoyment depends on many factors like, you like documentary, you have a impartial perspective on Che, wants to know about how images travel etc. But still for the sake of it.

To be continued.......Stay tuned for Day 2...
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2 comments so far.

  1. Isaac Ashe December 20, 2008 at 3:53 PM
    Yes Man is based on a book of the same name by a guy named Danny Wallace that's also pretty funny and worth checking out.
  2. Manu December 20, 2008 at 6:14 PM
    oh..ya.. heard about that.. Funny?.. I'm always looking for funny books to read.once in a while. There are so little of them.. Christopher Moore is one of my favs.. So Danny wallace eh?.. Will check it out..thanks.. :)

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