Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Argentine

The Argentine is a 2008 biographical film about Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Benicio del Toro as Che. Soderbergh plans to make two films about Che with the other called Guerrilla. The Argentine will focus on the Cuban revolution, from the moment Fidel Castro, Guevara and other revolutionaries landed on the Caribbean island, until they toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista two years later. Guerrilla will focus on the years following the Cuban revolution. It will begin with Che's trip to the United Nations headquarters in New York City in 1964, until his death in the Bolivian mountains in 1967.

While researching for both films, Soderbergh made a documentary with interviews with many who fought alongside Che in Cuba and Bolivia.[3] Originally, there was one screenplay but the director realized that it needed to be broken up into two films. The original source material for these scripts was Che's diary from the Cuban Revolution and from his time in Bolivia. From there, he drew on interviews with people who knew Che from both of those time periods and read every book available that pertained to both Cuba and Bolivia.

Both films were financed without any American money or distribution deal and Soderbergh remarked, "It was very frustrating to know that this is a zeitgeist movie and that some of the very people who told me how much they now regret passing on Traffic passed on this one too". Wild Bunch, a French production, distribution and foreign sales company put up 75% of the $61.5 million budget for the two films, tapping into a production and acquisition fund from financing and investment company Continental Entertainment Capitol, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based Citigroup. Spain's Telecinco/Moreno Films suppling the rest of the budget.

Soderbergh shot both films back to back over a 90-day period beginning in May 2007 with most of the dialogue in Spanish. According to an interview in Sight and Sound magazine, the original intention was that the first film "will be shot in 16mm anamorphic" because, "it needs a bit of Bruckheimer but scruffier". Soderbergh ultimately opted to shoot both films on early models of the RED One rather than 16mm film, but otherwise kept to his plan of shooting the first film anamorphic, and the second with spherical lenses. The film was shot in Puerto Rico and, according to actor Edgar Ramirez who portrays Ciro Redondo, the cast "were improvising a lot" and describes the project as a "very contemplative movie", shot chronologically.

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