The Motorcycle Diaries - Front Cover

The Motorcycle Diaries

Country: Argentina
Release Date: Jan 15, 2004
Genre(s): Adventure
Director: Walter Salles.
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo De la Serna, Mercedes Moran, Jean Pierre Noher, Lucas Oro.
Awards: Oscar, Argentinian Film Critics Awards, BAFTA, Cannes International Film Festival

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The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries - Garcia and RodrigoThe movie “The Motorcycle Diaries” is an adaptation from the biography of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the famous (or infamous) Cuban revolutionary. It follows the early life of Guevara when he took a road trip through South America on a motorcycle with his friend Alberto Granado and his experiences along the way. The movie is about how Guevara becomes deeply affected by the way the poor are oppressed and gives a glimpse into the thoughts and experiences that made him “Che” later in life.

The direction of Walter Salles is exemplary and Gael Garcia Bernal who plays Guevara has done a truly amazing job. And Rodrigo De la Serna who plays Alberto Granado is the perfect complement to Bernal and his grudging loyalty to his friend in difficult times shows the potential of this young actor. The screenplay is tight and keeps the movie moving along, and the background score is one of the best in a long time. In fact it was nominated for two Oscars and received one for Original Song for “Al Otro Lado Del Rio”.

The movie has been nominated for 38 awards and won 29 of them, including an Oscar.

The Plot

Plot is actually the wrong word to describe the storyline for this movie. There is no plot. It’s a biography of sorts of a young man who sets off on a journey with his friends and his experiences along the way. The movie starts off with Guevara (Fuser to his friends) deciding to postpone his final semester in medical school so that he can take a long dreamed of motorcycle trip with his friend Alberto Granado. The movie is about two young men and how they deal with their broken down old motorcycle, their perpetual lack of money and their almost insatiable sexual urges.

It’s not a moralistic discourse, just the way two young men see life in the rough. The movie does not follow Guevara’s journal completely and is instead only an adaptation. Most of the movie is therefore about the everyday experiences that the two friends have on their journey. Except for two places, one when they visit a leper colony in the Amazon Basin and another when they meet up with a few communists, the movie actually does not explain much about what may have shaped Guevara’s thinking later in life.

The director has done an amazing job by just portraying experiences and leaving the rest to the imagination of the viewer. No answers are given, and two people watching the same movie can come away with two very different view points on it.

The movie ends when the two friends arrive at Guajira Peninsula in Venezuela four months after they set out from Buenos Aires. The subject is of course a highly controversial one, but the movie does not touch on Guevara’s later life. It only deals with his life during the road trip and leaves it to our imagination to connect the dots and arrive at conclusions. It’s been so skillfully done that most people who watched the movie even without knowing that the Ernesto in the movie is the one who later became famous as Che still found it a very good one. Of course once the connection is made, it rises in the estimation of movie goers and tends to give it that extra couple of stars in ratings.

But if not for anything else you need to watch the movie for the breathtaking visuals. You get a free ride through South America and the cinematography is one of the best of the continent in decades. You’ll hear a lot about the way Machu Picchu has been shot and it’s worth every single word written about it. You swing through 5 countries and you see them as you have never seen them before. For such a low budget movie, the visuals rival and even surpass ones with much bigger budgets.


Data Sheet

Directed By: Walter Salles.
Produced By: Daniel Burman, Diego Dubcovsky, Edgar Tenenbaum, Karen Tenkoff.
Written By: Jose Rivera (Adapted from Ernesto Guevara’s and Alberto Granado’s Journal)
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo De la Serna, Mercedes Moran, Jean Pierre Noher, Lucas Oro.
Music By: Gustavo Santaolalla
Cinematography: Eric Gautier
Editing: Daniel Rezende
Release Date: Jan 15, 2004
Running Time: 126 min
Country: Argentina
Language: Spanish, French.

Amazon’s Review

The beauty of the South American landscape and of Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Bad Education) gives The Motorcycle Diaries a charisma that is decidedly apolitical. But this portrait of the young Che Guevara (later to become a militant revolutionary) is half buddy-movie, half social commentary–and while that may seem an unholy hybrid, under the guidance of Brazillian director Walter Salles (Central Station) the movie is quietly passionate. Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna, a lusty and engaging actor) set off from Buenos Aires, hoping to circumnavigate the continent on a leaky motorcycle. They end up travelling more by foot, hitchhiking, and raft, but their experience of the land and the people affects them profoundly. No movie could affect an audience the same way, but The Motorcycle Diaries gives a soulful glimpse of an awakening social conscience, and that’s worth experiencing

Amazon’s  Customer’s Reviews

“On the road” with Che Guevara  – By Robert Moore

As most potential viewers know, this film is based on diaries and letters to home written by Ernesto “Che” Guevara during a motorcycle and foot tour of a significant portion of South America during the early 1950s, years before Guevara achieved international renown as a Communist and Latino revolutionary. Thus, the film functions as an attempt to get at the heart of the person who preceded the myth. The film is therefore difficult to judge as pure cinema. Is this, on its own merits, a great film? Or is it a great film about Che Guevara? Interestingly, the person I saw this film with knew absolutely nothing about the subject of the film before it started, and did not connect Ernesto Guevara with Che Guevara until very late in the film. Her reaction was interesting. Until she realized that it was about Che, she says that she considered it a decent but only slightly above average “road” picture, but it gained considerably in her estimation once she realized who the film was about. I think she was correct, and I would agree with those who feel that what merits the film has depends to some degree on who the film is about. If Ernesto hadn’t become Che, it would be a good film but of considerably less interest than it is.

The film does a good job of rooting Che’s eventual concern with the liberation of the oppressed by depicting his broad and constant encounters with everyday people throughout the continent. Camus wrote that it was important to side with the victims and not the executioners, and in his travels Ernesto spends most of his time with the victims. His near-epic exposure to the continent clearly condition his sympathies and inform his vision. At the end of the film it is easy to understand why Che chose a life dedicated to aiding the oppressed in Cuba and elsewhere. The great question left unanswered, and the one reason one can find Che’s life morally troubling, is why he felt that the causes he espoused demanded a violent, military response. Why follow in the steps of Trotsky and Lenin rather than Gandhi? Apart from a single line which merely hints that Che felt violence might be necessary, the film doesn’t come anywhere close to answering this question.

In many ways, the star of the film is the South American continent. I have seen many films over the years set in one corner of the continent or another, but none provided a panoramic view. This film, however, by swinging through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Columbia, and Venezuela provides a graphic impression of the continent’s immense geographical diversity, expanse, and enormous beautiful. I don’t think it would be possible to see this film without a deep urge to visit the land. The scene shot in Machu Picchu reveals the incredible beauty of the site better than anything else I have ever seen.

Gael Garcia Bernal is a remarkably handsome, talented young actor, formerly best known for one of the two young men in Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, and is outstanding in portraying the young Che Guevara. One suspects that his days as an actor in primarily Latin productions is close to an end, his next several projects originating in Hollywood. Rodrigo De la Serna does not have the enormous charisma of Bernal, but he more than holds his own in the film. The cast is rounded out by a large roster of professional and amateur performers.

Che Guevara is such a controversial figure that this film could elicit a host of differing responses. How one will respond to this film will be deeply conditioned by how one views him. But I do think that it is a film that virtually every viewer will respond to with great interest, and I defy anyone not to find the remarkable landscapes anything short of stunning.

The Motorcycle Diaries, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating


Motorcycle Diaries - Poster
The Motorcycle Diaries - Front Cover
The Motorcycle Diaries - Garcia with Mercedes
The Motorcycle Diaries - Chatting up the locals
The Motorcycle Diaries - Garcia and Rodrigo
The Motorcycle Diaries - Having fun
The Motorcycle Diaries - Garcia as Guevara writing his journal
Motorcycle Diaries - On the road
Motorcycle Diaries - scene
The Motorcycle Diaries - The Norton


The Motorcycle Diaries - Front Cover Play
The Motorcycle Diaries
The movie “The Motorcycle Diaries” is an adaptation from the biography of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the famous (or infamous) Cuban revolutionary. It follows the early life of Guevara when he took a road trip through South America on a motorcycle with his friend Alberto Granado and his experiences along...
Posted 29 Aug 2012

Posted by  IberoAmericanMovies
Categories: Argentina, Argentine movies, BAFTA, Cannes Festival, Goya, Images, Oscar, Synopsis, Trailers

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