Directed by Icíar Bollaín, Even The Rain draws intriguing parallels between Colombus’s imperialisation of the Americas in the 16th century and the Bolivian Water War of 2000, where large-scale protests reversed the government’s attempt to privatise the water supply of Bolivia’s third largest city.
Earnest, idealist director Sebastián (Gael García Bernal) and his insensitive producer Costa (Luis Tosar) arrive with their crew in the city of Cochabamba to shoot their controversial, high-minded polemic against the exploitation and suppression in the 16th Century of the indigenous populations of the ‘New World’.
Sebastián intends to portray Colombus in his film as a violent, gold-obsessed tyrant. The film-within-the-film’s team has chosen Bolivia as their location to take advantage of the cheap filming costs, and we see Costa incredulous and delighted that the cast he has assembled will work for only $2 a day. This of course does not sit well when juxtaposed with the motivations behind Sebastián’s crusade; indeed Anton (Karra Elejalde), the drunken actor who plays Colombus, constantly challenges Sebastián, accusing him of hypocrisy.
The crew’s arrival in Cochabamba coincides with the sale of the city’s water system to a British/American multinational. Wells used by the local people for centuries are suddenly being sealed, and the water company’s rates are extortionate. The film’s title reflects the view that under the new ordinance even catching rainwater would be illegal. Wide-scale rioting ensues as a result of the injustice.
Back within the film-within-the-film, against Costa’s advice, Sebastián casts local and perceived troublemaker Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri) as the leader of the opposition against Colombus, after Daniel catches his eye when speaking out against the crew’s mistreatment of the local people who have come to audition for the film. Daniel’s homologous role in real life as leader of the water war protests drives their film into tremendous difficulties. It becomes a battle to complete it before Daniel is incarcerated, and indeed before the film crew must evacuate the city to escape the violence.
We see only a few of the film-within-the-film’s historical scenes being shot, yet they are powerful and moving enough to hammer the message home.
Costa’s personal journey and the development of his relationship with Daniel is absorbing, however his sudden acquisition of a moral conscience is perhaps unconvincing, despite Tosar’s superb acting. To begin with Costa had no interest in the Bolivian people, yet he ends up risking his life to save Daniel’s daughter who has been injured in the rioting. By contrast, Sebastián, the idealist on a moral crusade, puts his film and the making of his dream project before the people, asking Costa to forget the girl and leave with the crew. He argues that the riots will eventually end and be forgotten, and says his film is more important as it will last forever.
Even The Rain is clever, warm and compelling, and kept me thinking long after I departed the cinema. Aduviri gives a spirited performance as Daniel, and Tosar and Garcia Bernal are both excellent. If you can forgive the hint of a Hollywood ending, then this is a must-see.