Filmmaker Sebastian (Gael García Bernal) arrives in Cochabamba accompanied by a cast and crew ready to make a film about Colombuss first voyage to the New World and the subsequent subjugation of the indigenous population. Sebastian wants to focus on the experience of Bartolome de las Casas, who was so distraught over the treatment of the natives that he dedicated the rest of his life to their cause. His producer Costa (Luis Tosar) has chosen Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, because it makes sense economically. Extras are willing to work long hours for just two dollars a day. Sebastian casts local man Daniel in the role of Hatuey, the Taino chief who led a rebellion against the Spaniards. Daniel is also one of the leaders in the demonstrations against the water hikes. Intercutting footage of Sebastiens film with recordings of the actual protests, the lines between fiction and reality, past and present, are efficiently blurred. Effective on many levels, this film within a film draws subtle parallels between the exploitation of the past and the continued exploitation of Latin America by richer countries and multinational corporations. Bollaíns thoughts on the introspection inherent in filmmaking, or in any work of art, are expressed through Sebastian. He has only the best intentions of denouncing the injustices of the past, but little patience for the present dilemma, especially when it starts to impede his shooting schedule. Even the Rain is a film about hope. Focusing on the continuing exploitation of Latin America, Bollaín shows the inspirational change that is possible when people band together to fight injustice.
This is one of the finest films I have ever watched. 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!
Sadly unconvincing; I expected more than a wandering cluelessly iffy plot and seemingly brain dead protagonists looking cute and pretty and doing touchy-feely stuff for little apparent reason as appears norm in the dire cinema (generally speaking) of today. In need of a good director and a better sequence of events akin to a plot. All right for adolescent beardos with chiselled haircuts and skinny saggy bottom trousers I suppose. I am certain the Coen's would have made a great film out of the basic ingredients. Very disappointed! And what hurts most is.. I paid for this!
An American film company is making a revisionist film about Columbus, stressing his exploitation of the native population. Ironically the producer is doing precisely the same, paying peanuts to the extras. Meanwhile the people are protesting against the proposed privatisation of their water supply and things change for the team. 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).
ByBob SalterTOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 6 September 2012
Films about films don't always engage with the viewer. Historical films can also be hit and miss on occasions. So why not tell a historical story through modern day lenses using the device of making a film on location in Bolivia. Quite a feat of imagination, and one that on the face of it would be difficult to pull off. But Spanish director Iciar Bollain, with the help of her talented scriptwriter Paul Laverty has made something that is imaginative, thought provoking and perceptive. A real tour de force of film talent and ability. The film within the film is based largely on the Dominican priest Padre Antonio Montesinos, who spoke out in March 1511 against the might of the Spanish empire. His denunciation of the mistreatment and murder of indigenous peoples by the Spanish conquerors was a lone voice crying out in the wilderness. His words carry great resonance today, and as such are ideal for a contemporary setting. It is worth quoting him here. "Look into an Indian's eyes. Are these not men? Do they not have rational souls? Are you not obliged to love them as yourselves". Brave words that probably pronounced his own death sentence. A story worth telling!
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.