With so many over-the-top Mission Impossible-style spy thrillers out there, it’s easy to forget there are actual spies in the world who actually do a lot of the over-the-top stuff we see in those movies. Argentine engineer and software programmer Bill Gaede – who incidentally looks nothing like Tom Cruise – was one of them. And for those who are interested in knowing the true story behind the unassuming software developer-turned-Cuban spy-turned-US spy-turned Physics professor, the Argentine documentary El Crazy Che brings Gaede’s dramatic story to the big screen in stunning detail.
Partially raised in the United States, Gaede was working for a Silicon Valley software developer in the 1980s when he slipped some technical information to the Cuban government in a daring display of leftist ideals. After things went well, Gaede kept up the Cuban connection and eventually caught the attention of Fidel Castro, but by the late 80s he had fallen out of love with Castro’s revolution and fell in with a group of Cuban dissidents, who then put him in touch with the FBI. But when Gaede felt betrayed by the feds, he turned his high-tech spy gear on them, recording their top secret conversations and eventually earning himself 33 months in prison.
Directed by Nicolas Iacouzzi and Pablo Chehebar, El Crazy Che examines each step of Gaede’s high-stakes spy games, incorporating archival materials, animation, and interviews with Gaede and friends to spin this unbelievable profile of a brilliant adrenaline junky. Incidentally, Gaede has since gotten out of the espionage racket and is casually developing a theory of the universe at a German university, so this might not be the last documentary we see about this larger-than-life figure.