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Friday, July 8, 2011

"Even the Rain", 500 years of imperialism in Latin America

Even the Rain (También la Lluvia, Spanish original title)
I was a bit reluctant to watch this film. Its topic and the (sadly justified) prejudice about Spanish cinema were strong arguments against. But “Even the Rain” is a very welcomed exception, revealing itself as a noteworthy and brave attempt of mixing a film-inside-the-film story with social reality, in the form of a revolt in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Not an easy combination, but despite some issues, the movie is solid during all its length.

The main plotline is a Spanish film crew that arrives to Bolivia in order to shoot a new take, denouncing the sins (why don't we call it genocide?) of Christopher Columbus and Spanish imperialism after his discovery of the New World looking for gold. That's the approach that Sebastian (performed by Gael García Bernal) the director, wants to give to his epic super-production (despite low-cost being located in Bolivia), with the help of producer's Costa (Luis Tosar), responsible of the money. But while they are preparing their ambitious shooting, contemporary South American politics appear, in the form of a revolt (based on the real water wars the country suffered in 2000) that directly affects their project.

Merging the two plots is a risky move that filmmaker Icíar Bollaín achieves, for the majority of the movie, with remarkable grace. Sure, there's no subtlety at all when we are exposed to see the parallels between the oppression and its forms hundreds of years ago (the movie the cast is shooting) by the imperialist Spaniards, and the ones regarding the local government plans to privatize the city’s water supply. That obviousness undermines the amazing potential of "Even the Rain". But the attempt is brave and other intriguing questions regarding art (cinema in this case), its value, meaning and costs appears.

All this conceptual and meta-cinema story could be on the verge of being a failure if the characters weren't credible. And despite Paul Laverty's (always linked to Ken Loach) doesn't really develop what could have been a very powerful character in the suffering director Sebastian (García Bernal) and the cliché looms with the drunken star (Karra Elejalde) is all saved by Luis Tosar, who plays Costa with an amazing consistency and disarming endurance (proving again he's the best Spanish actor alive) and Juan Carlos Aduviri, who plays Daniel, the rebel leader against the conquering Spaniards in the film-within-the-film, and one of the leaders of the revolt against the government that wants to privatize water's supply. The moments where the two are on screen are the real highlights of "Even the Rain".

I wonder if that's what really what Bollaín and Laverty's wanted to do, but to me, what carries the heart of "Even the Rain" is the personal, moral conflict of Costa. His evolution, and how he sees and growingly understand Daniel is a stronger, more honest and striking message than the schematic political issues raised and its parallels with the times of Columbus. Anyway, the result is a solid film that invites to a thought-provoking discussion about the sort of world we are living in. A world that, like the historian and activist Howard Zinn, to whom the movie is dedicated, brilliantly says in his must-read book "A People's History of the United States", maybe hasn't evolved that much from the 15-16th century.

SCORE: 7/10

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