IN A YEAR FULL of biopics (Ray Charles, Howard Hughes, J.M. Barrie, etc.), Che Guevara gets his props in Diaries (on DVD Feb. 15), while the film didn't do so well in the Academy Awards race. Oscar-nominated screenwriter José Rivera pops up among the few extras on this single-disc release, along with actors Rodrigo De la Serna and Gael García Bernal, producer Robert Redford, and director Walter Salles who, though multilingual, didn't get the chance for a feature commentary. Everyone's remarks are fairly bland and mutually respectful, but it's easier to talk about Guevara's political coming-of-age than his later violent revolutionary activities.
"You see the grain of the man who was to be," says Salles of young, preradicalized Guevara. His real-life traveling companion, octogenarian Alberto Granado, adds, "We didn't know anything about Latin America" before their 5,000-mile trip. This innocence contributes to the movie's road-trip charm. Guevara and Granado are more intent on girls than agrarian reform during their early journey. Notes Redford, "There is a lot of comedy, but it's real."
Only after reaching Machu Picchu and seeing firsthand the poverty of Peruvian Indians do the two begin to open their eyes politically. To its credit, the movie doesn't bludgeon the filmgoer's conscience nor put windy speeches in the mouths of those not yet ready to speak them. The viewer becomes, in effect, the third motorcyclist on the trip— a grand tour of a continent too many of us norteamericanos know as poorly as those two riders first did. Filmed in the actual sequence and along the actual locations of the original 1952 odyssey, Diaries will do better than win Oscars—it'll inspire young people to travel to lands they don't know.
Early buyers of the new DVD of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence were treated to intrusive closed captioning instead of traditional subtitles. The problem is being addressed by Disney. Owners of GITS-2 DVDs who want replacements should go to www.gofishpictures.com/GITS2/main.html, click on "The DVD" option on the left side, then click on the text that reads "Questions About Your DVD?" You can fill out a form to get a postage-paid mailer to return your DVD and receive a new disc in return. If you haven't yet purchased the DVD, make sure the spine bears the code "V4" before you do. Such packages contain the corrected version of the disc.