Chevolution

Film director Trisha Ziff explores the history of one of the world's most iconic images

Image
It may well be the most reproduced photograph in history, its meaning diluted and appropriated to the point where it has almost become meaningless. We’re talking of course about "Guerilla Heroico", the image of Che Guevara taken by fashion photographer turned documenter of the revolution Alberto Korda.

Being initially copyright free in accordance with the law in communist Cuba at the time, the image started off as a poster, a representation of 60s counter-culture to those in the know, but it has gone on to be used to market bands, drinks, cigarettes... as a representation of what? Chevolution seeks to answer that question.

With Alberto Kordas's daughter, Gael Garcia Bernal, Antonio Banderas, Jim Fitzgerald and Gerry Adams giving their views on the image and the myths surrounding it, this is an informative and inspiring piece of work. Dazed was lucky enough to grab some time with the film's director Trisha Ziff...

Dazed Digital: When did your fascination with the Guerilla Heroico image begin?
Trisha Ziff:
I knew Korda and after he died I had dinner with my good friend and his gallerist Daryl Couturier. I asked him what it was like for Alberto to have his entire life dominated by those 60-seconds. Then I got the idea of having this obsession with a single moment. I wondered if one could hold an audience with just one image repeated over and over again in several different ways. I put together an exhibition on the image, which travelled the world. It was on at the V&A in England. The opportunity of making a film on the subject came up and I realised it could be taken it to such a broader audience.

DD: Some of young people interviewed didn't seem to know who Che Guevara was...
Trisha Ziff:
It’s very different in America to Britain – remember the embargo, and the fact that Cuban culture has been pretty much vilified in the states. He was a handsome man, Korda was a fashion photographer and knew how to work with beauty. If he hadn’t looked the way he did he would never have become such an icon.

DD: How long did it take you to complete the documentary?
Trisha Ziff:
It was pretty quick in film terms. Because of the exhibition all the research was done, so it was all done in about two years.

DD: You had a huge range of interviewees in the film. Who did you find the most enlightening?
Trisha Ziff:
Antonio Banderas was particularly articulate and curious, he gave us a lot of time. Shepard Fairey was very surprising with his answers and Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine was really smart and clear.

DD: The documentary is remarkably unbiased given the strong feeling surrounding Cuba and Che Guevara, did you feel it was of great importance to present a clear picture of the politics?
Trisha Ziff:
People here really didn’t think it was unbiased, they thought the opinion of the filmmaker was very clear. I really had no interest in adding to the myth of Che. A man who believed in bringing about change with a gun; that’s not the kind of person I would put on a pedestal. 

DD: Where do you stand on the use of the image and it's ownership?
Trisha Ziff:
I have worked with photographers for years so I understand the importance of copyright law. When we’re talking about an image like this, it is especially important for the family and the estate. The Guerilla Heroico image has been diluted in so many directions. We had a contract with the Korda estate and we had had to honour that and work with his daughter very closely. The lawsuits they put out against the Havana t-shirt sellers and emerging artists I don’t agree with, but with companies like Smirnoff, of course they should go after them. What has been happening in Tehran recently, with CNN requesting that people send in images, is making the role of the photojournalist a redundant one. There’s no payment and no credit. If you don’t know who took a photo then no one is accountable for it’s content. I’m not saying it is one versus the other but it’s a shame for all these trained photographers to be out of work.

Chevolution out on Sept 18
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