Even the Rain
Icíar Bollaín’s latest film Even the Rain is as unabashedly political as it is entertaining. A rare feat for a movie that has such an obvious and finger wagging agenda. But it is all pulled off without a hitch. Almost.
Rain examines globalization as a form of forced colonialism in the context of modern day Bolivia as a European film crew settle on Cochabamba (Bolivia’s third largest city) as a cheap and acceptable filming locale. The film within the film is meant to show a truer portrayal of Christopher Colombus and the way he enslaved the local peoples and exploited them and the land of the New World. Meanwhile, in real world times, an uprising is occuring in Bolivia as the country sells its water rights to western countries who try and markup water taxes 300%. Nationwide violent riots seem imminent threatening the film.
The script was written by Paul Laverty. And the story is about as heavy handed as you’d expect would come from someone who worked in Central America for several human rights organizations during political turmoil and civil war (which Laverty did). But some excellent parallels are made and it’s so much fun watching it all happen. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Sebastian the director of the European film crew and Luis Tosar plays Costa, the crew’s producer. Initially the penny pinching spirit of early colonialists is mostly seen in Costa. Since he’s in Bolivia, he doesn’t bother taking proper safety precautions building sets and brags with exact sums the amount of money he’s saved using local labor that either doesn’t know any better, or needs the money too much to complain about the risks. At one point, Costa is speaking on a cell phone to English-speaking funders of the project where he laughs at the fact the extras are thrilled to be receiving two dollars a day as compensation.
Opposite these imperialists both in the film and in the film in the film is a local man named Daniel. He’s chosen to play an Indian martyr at the hands of Columbus’s men. But Daniel ends up playing a large part in the organized protests against the government’s misappropriation of water rights. He becomes the leader of an oppressed people in both facets.
Bollaín found an uneven balance in making things uncomfortable and taking things too far. In one moment of Sebastian’s film, extras are meant to play out a scene where they’re to drown their own babies as a better option than letting them be eaten by the European men’s dogs. It’s an uneasy moment, aided by the awkward time required to translate back and forth the things being said. Later, Daniel’s character is meant to burnt at the stake along with twelve of his insubordinates (one for each of the apostles and one for Jesus Christ himself). The scene goes on far too long with the European actors yelling, “This is what happens when you oppose the Christians!” Quick cut to riots in the streets of Cochabamba where locals are being beaten and put into jail for protesting the encroachment of western corporations.
Regardless, Rain is pretty poignant for the most part. Up until the final moments of the film no major misstep can really be noted as Bollaín’s direction is assured and pleasant. The footage of Sebastian’s film we see are tonally perfect, and stirring. The coverage of the political unrest have just enough of a documentary-like feel to be believable. But in the last leg of the film, we see a major change in Costa. Sebastian and Costa spend most of the film reminding themselves and their crew that the film comes first no matter what. Sebastian even reminds Costa that the riots will eventually calm down and be forgotten, but the film will be forever. This attitude is important to the satire of the movie. They are a vital part of the commentary the film is making. But Costa ends up jeopardizing the entire film in order to try and get a young girl (Daniel’s daughter) to the hospital after being injured among the crowds. Perhaps this is a trite message of hope, a suggestion things have changed at least a little bit? Maybe it’s meant to be morally instructive? I don’t know. Either way, it took a bit away from a film that was pretty biting until the last few minutes. There’s still much to take away from Even the Rain, it’s a much welcomed break to the mostly worthless films choking theatres at this time of year.