In January 1952, medical student Ernesto (Gael García Bernal) and biochemist Alberto (Rodrigo de la Serna) set out on an eight-month road trip from Buenos Aires to discover the real Latin America. When they arrive at a leper colony deep in the Peruvian Amazon, the two begin to question the value of progress as defined by economic systems that leave so many people beyond reach, redefining the ethical and political journey they will take in their lives. Based on the books The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Guevara and With Che Through Latin America by Alberto Granado. Directed by Walter Salles (Central Station).
The Motorcycle Diaries • by director Walter Salles
There’s something in this original journey these two young men took that may be very pertinent for today’s society. They believed that change could occur. And we live in an age where everybody tries to tell you that change cannot occur anymore.
You know, these are very conservative times. And maybe, maybe there’s a way to look at this in the complete reverse angle, that yes, utopia is something that is reachable. It’s not only a distant concept. It’s important not to live other people’s lives vicariously through television, but to go on the road, and then to see for yourself, in what kind of society we live. And these two kids, they had the courage to jump on their bike and to experience something that they didn’t know of. And they changed, thanks to their sensibilities.
What was fascinating about The Motorcycle Diaries to start with was the fact that it was not only a journey of self-discovery but a journey about two young characters whose identities crystallize when they enter in contact with a very specific social and political reality.
Every single young man growing up in Latin America understands Che’s policy and what it meant, not only to the continent, but also to our present history. And I knew how his ideals had reshaped my own continent. I had an admiration for what he stood for. But I didn’t understand his whole journey. This trip, for instance, this first journey throughout Latin America, was only published in 1993. Every young man who was born in Latin America understands Che’s personal odyssey. I mean, he’s somebody who fought for his ideals. He is somebody who had the integrity to say what he believed in, and then to fight for what he said. Rare are the political men who stand for that. Rarer today, even, than it was in the ’60s. He’s a man that believed that change was necessary and change could occur. And that utopia was not only a distant concept.
I first saw Gael García Bernal in Amores Perros and I was very, very impressed, by not only his versatility as an actor, but also by how internal his performance was. It’s very rare in young actors who tend sometimes to be a little bit larger than life, you know, in their ways of interpreting a character. Gael, in the opposite, was, at the same time, extremely expressive and economical. I think he is very simply one of the most talented actors I’ve ever worked with. Not only the best actor of his generation, he’s more than that. He’s got the soulfulness, the density that was required for this. Not only the talent, but also this richness in his own soul that was really fundamental to play this character.