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Jose Rivera

'Motorcycle Diaries'

Studio: Focus Features (released Sept. 24)

Category: Adapted from separate memoirs by Che Guevara and Alberto Granado.

Storyline: Before becoming the revolutionary “Che,” young medical student Ernesto Guevara de la Serna joins his friend Granado on an eight-month, 8,000-mile journey across Latin America astride an aging, unreliable motorcycle, with scarcely any money.

About the script: The film chronicles the experiences that transformed the young revolutionary-to-be. Far from being a political treatise, the film is, above all, a travelogue about two friends coming of age. Rivera spent two years researching and writing the script, paying careful attention to the depth of the two leads. “You can also characterize the movie as a love letter to South America,” adds Rivera, “or as a way to pay respect to its diversity and enormous history.”

Biggest challenge: “Living up to the legend of Che Guevara and not letting the legend of Che Guevara overwhelm the film,” says Rivera.

Breakthrough idea: “To concentrate on telling a universal coming-of-age story. From the beginning, I told myself I wouldn’t be intimidated. I

wasn’t going to worry about the people on the far left, who wouldn’t find the movie political enough, and the people on the far right, who would criticize us for making a movie about someone they would call a terrorist. I really had to block out both sides and focus on the human story.”

Standout scene: At a surprise birthday party near the end of their journey, the magnetic Guevara speaks about unifying South America: It’s clear the young doctor is no longer a boy. “The speech is taken close to verbatim from the text that Guevara wrote, so for me, it felt like finally, as filmmakers, we were stepping aside and letting history speak for itself.”

Choice lines: When Ernesto and Alberto behold Machu Picchu, we hear Ernesto’s voiceover, “Is it possible to be nostalgic for a world you never knew?”

Writer’s bio: “The Motorcycle Diaries” is Rivera’s first feature screenplay. He has written several award-winning stage plays, including “Marisol”; “References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot”; and “Cloud Tectonics,” which is he adapting for film. His television work includes “Eerie, Indiana” and an adaptation of his play “The House of Ramon Iglesias” for PBS.

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