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Even the Rain [DVD]
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Obsessive idealist Sebastián has sworn to direct a film about one of the world s most iconic figures, Christopher Columbus. He is determined to overturn the myth of the arrival of Western Civilization in the Americas as a force for good. His film will show what Columbus set in motion: the obsession with gold, the taking of slaves, and the terrible violence visited on those Indians who fought back.
The brilliant actor playing Columbus constantly challenges the director, accusing him of hypocrisy and cheap manipulation. Costa, Sebastián s friend and producer, doesn t give a damn. All that matters is that the film comes in on time and within budget. Costa decided they will shoot in Bolivia, the cheapest, most Indian of Latin American countries.
While the shoot progresses in and around the city of Cochabamba, civil and political unrest simmer, as the entire water supply of the city is privatized and sold to a British/American multinational. Violence increases daily until the entire city explodes in the now infamous Bolivian Water War - a war which actually took place in April 2000. 500 years after Columbus, sticks and stones once again confront the high-tech weaponry of a modern army. David against Goliath. Only this time the fight is not over gold, but the simplest of life-giving elements - water.
Awards and Accreditations:
Berlin International Film Festival, Panorama Audience Award 2011
From the Back Cover
Spanish with English subtitles
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A film company arrives in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to make a revisionist history film of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492. The material used to depict his barbarity and greed is lifted straight out of the first chapter of Howard Zinn’s seminal book A People’s History of the United States. The company employs local Native Americans as actors and extras and films scenes depicting their slavery and mutilation in the pursuit of gold. However, their arrival coincides with the Bolivian government’s sale of the local water supply to a foreign multinational and the outlawing of even collecting rain water, hence the film’s title.
The screenplay is exceptionally clever. The actor playing Columbus exploits the local hotel staff during a rehearsal, however benignly, the producer gloats about getting labour on the cheap and the idealistic director disapproves of his most important actors’ involvement in the campaign against the privatisation.
There is one particular scene in which the film company films Arawaks being burnt at the stake for opposing Columbus. At its conclusion, the police arrive and arrest Daniel, their most important local actor, for his involvement in a demonstration. The extras, all dressed in period costume, overturn the police car and release him. It’s wonderful. The clarity with which the lineage of exploitation is depicted is superb: gold, film, water. Nothing changes, the natives are still living in grinding poverty and even those wanting to set the record straight are part of the same system of oppression. There is also a sub-text of prejudice and racism, a set of assumptions about the natives shared by the European government agencies and some of the film crew.
It’s also lovely to see some unfamiliar actors whose characters do not speak with a Hollywood accent!
Even if you are not turned on by South American political drama - though this is brilliant - just feast your eyes on the gorgeous Gael Garcia Bernal (addressed mainly to female readers).
Luis Tosar plays the opportunistic executive producer Costa, who exploits the indigenous people of Bolivia by only paying them a 2 dollar pittance for a days work. All part of cutting the costs! Gael Garcia Bernal plays the Mexican film director Sebastian. Accompanied by a cast and crew they arrive in Cochabamba, Bolivia to make a film about the arrival of Columbus in the New World, particularly highlighting their cruel and exploitive treatment of the local Taino indian population, which lead to their eventually extermination. Tosar's behaviour of course echoes this. History is then bridged as filming takes place against the background of the water war in Bolivia, where violent privatisation of water fuelled by the interests of foreign investors lead to protests across the country. It is probably better to read Oscar Oliveira's eye witness account "Cochabamba, Water War in Bolivia", to understand the cruel injustives visited on the indigenous peoples. So, nothing much changes over 500 years and the peon class still gets a raw deal. In an original way this highlights the heroic finger in the dam protest by that one lone priest so many years before. But someone has to make a stand, and that is at the very heart of this film. Ken Loach would love this! No surprise then that Laverty wrote the screenplay for Loach's "The Wind that Shakes the Barley".
Luis Tosar is superb as Costa who finally realises that there are more important things than making a film. Karra Elijalde does an impressive turn as the alcoholic actor who plays Christopher Columbus in the film. The film also imitates the trials and tribulations of filmmaking on location, when crews can be at the mercy of more volatile local politics. The powerful documentary film "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse" famously documented the hardships endured by Francis Ford Coppola and his crew to film the epic "Apocalypse Now". I was also reminded of Werner Herzog's epic film "Fitzcarraldo" also filmed on location and where there were strong accusations of mistreatment of indigenous peoples. Something this film was at pains to refute. The Jesuit priest that Jeremy Irons played in that brilliant film "The Mission", who was willing to die to protect his native converts, could almost have been based on Padre Montesinos. The words of Montesinos are both brilliant and passionate. The film captures a lot of those qualities particularly in a final scene involving water, a commodity that can be as precious as gold! An important film that has something worthwhile to say.
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