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It would not be surprising if some day a film school professor chose
'También la lluvia' to illustrate a course about committed pictures,
for this Spanish-Mexican co-production is indeed a model of its kind.
Intelligently written by Paul Laverty (Ken Loach's regular collaborator since 1996) and competently helmed by Icíar Bollaín (a Spanish actress turned director and, incidentally, Laverty's life companion), 'También la lluvia' examines a social and political event that took place in Bolivia in 2000, the Water War, when an American Water Company tried to privatize the drinking water service in the town of Corachamba, implying a tariff raise in an order from 40% to 300%.
To tell his story, the writer could have adopted the committed filmmaker's standard approach: «display of injustice/negative impact on the group concerned/reaction of the most militant/confrontation/resolution of the conflict». Instead, he imagined the coming of a film crew shooting a movie in the surroundings of Carachambo, getting involved gradually and against their will - in the troubles affecting Corachamba. So do the viewers, who identify with them without having the feeling they are being manipulated by the authors.
Such a concept also gives 'También la lluvia' added value, making it function on several levels. It enables Laverty to: - inform his audiences about a little known historical event - unveil a hidden chapter of history (through the subject of the film shot within the film: the first opponents to the Conquistadores, Jesuits Bartolomé de las Casas and Antonio de Montesinos) - have the two stories echo each other and enrich each other - cast a spotlight on Bolivia, a neglected country, and on its Indian population - depict complex characters (the more idealistic ones shying away from direct action when confronted to danger while the more reactionary display unexpected bravery)
Helped by Iciar Bollain's sure-handed direction and by the excellence of the cast (Gabriel Garcia Bernal as Sébastián, the tormented director ; Luis Tosar as the cynical producer ; Karra Elejalde, impressive as the provocative star of the film in progress ; and - the revelation of the film, - the amazing Juan Carlos Aduviri, who inhabits his role as the Indian actor/activist Daniel), Paul Laverty manages to teach, move and entertain, while avoiding dogmatism, bias and over-simplification. Just what he is accused of by the flock of bleating French film critics.
I first got wind of the political situation in Bolivia around the time
of the 2003 protests, and then during the 2005 presidential election
that brought coca farmer Evo Morales to power, making him the country's
first indigenous president. Oliver Stone's documentary "South of the
Border" partly told the story of the World Bank-inspired water
privatization in Bolivia: the World Bank forced Bolivia's government to
pass a law making it illegal for people to collect rain in buckets
since it would have broken the monopoly on water ownership.
Icíar Bollaín's "También la lluvia" ("Even the Rain" in English) tells the story of the privatization, contrasting it with Christopher Columbus's genocide against the Indians. Filmmakers Sebastian (Gael García Bernal) and Costa (Luis Tosar) arrive in Cochabamba to make a movie about Columbus's arrival in the Americas, and the Taino Indians' subsequent rebellion against the occupation. But the events depicted in their movie begin to play out in real life: when the government sets out to privatize the water supply, the actor playing Taino leader Hatuey is one of the leaders of the protests.
The movie - which is dedicated to Howard Zinn - obviously has as its main purpose to show the parallels between indigenous resistance 500 years ago and today. But more than anything, it should offer incite into the roots of the wave of progressive leaders who rose to power in South America during the first decade of the 21st century. I definitely recommend it.
EVEN THE RAIN (También la lluvia) is a brilliant metaphor of a story
written by Paul Laverty based on an actual event and directed with
considerable skill by Icíar Bollaín, the great Spanish actress, writer
and director. This film is one of those rare 'docudramas' that bring to
light historical 'secrets' that beg to be shared. In 2000 an American
water company bought the water supply from the Bolivian government and
the citizens of Bolivia were banned from collecting rainwater which had
become corporate property. This resulted in a violent protest against
the government by the indigenous Indians and the citizenry of
Cochambamba, Bolivia who claimed their rights to the natural gifts of
nature - even the rain. Laverty and Bollaín expose this injustice
through a well-conceived story within a story.
Spanish film director Sebastián (Gael García Bernal), his cynical producer Costa (Luis Tosar), and crew including Antón (Karra Elejalde) have come to Cochabamba, Bolivia to shoot their film about Christopher Columbus (played by actor Antón - Karra Elejalde) and his first explorations, revealing the way the Spaniards treated the native Indians: Costa has chosen the place because he can get cheap labor in using local actors and extras to keep within the small budget of the film. Sebastián is the compassionate one who wants the Indians treated well, hiring a mouthy young Indian named Hatuey/Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri) when he claims he and his family are being unjustly overlooked as actor candidates. The filming goes well, with the exception of some minor glitches for particular scenes the Indians find too dangerous, until a conflict develops over the governmental privatization of the water supply. Daniel becomes an activist against the government who plan a 300% increase in price of water - the average daily income for the Indians is $2. a day! - and the conditions in the city become unfriendly for the film to continue. Bloody violence and chaos breakout and many citizens are being killed or jailed. It is at this point that the caring Sebastián finally decides that he and his crew must flee, and with some role reversal, Costa stays behind to protect Daniel's family.
According to Bollaín, 'It was the gold 500 years ago, and now it's the water, which is the gold of the 21st century. Before it was the Crown of Spain and the pope who approved the conquest. Now it is the new theologians, the IMF and the World Bank. Again it's the word from above, saying, 'This is right.' The Spanish filmmakers in the film-within-a-film are caught in the middle. They have the attitude of neo-conquerors - they go there because it's cheap. But they're also trying to make a film that casts a different look on the conquest. And it's an adventure.'
Iciar Bollaín directs this epic film with great dignity and with a keen observation of how history, even inadvertently, repeats itself. The cinematography by Alex Catalán and the musical score by Alberto Iglesias add immeasurably to the film's success. The cast of extras is exceptional and very well directed. Both Gael García Bernal and Luis Tosar deliver intensely considered performances as does Juan Carlos Aduviri as the key central figure Daniel. Hopefully this film, nominated for Best Foreign Film in the 2010 Academy Awards. In Spanish with English subtitles.
This is a great movie; a movie inside another movie, a movie out of another movie. Told a story when the Spaniards under the command of Christopher Columbus brutalized and ransacked Bolivia, then the government was bought out and mustered in the big corporate came in modern time to raped the country, took away the local people's water resource, the well, the water supply. Just like what the demonstrators said: "They need the vapor from our breaths, the sweat on our brows, they even want to take the rain dropping from the sky(Even The Rain)". The third storyline is the movie company that wanted to take advantage of the poor country's poverty and high unemployment, getting the cheap labors to shoot the movie. "The truth got many enemy, the lie got many friends", "You don't understand, water is our life", these dialog are so profound and true. Unfortunately, the movie crew was in the wrong time and at the wrong place encountered the explosion of the street riots and the demonstrations. This is a very complicated movie but shot so well to portray all the involving parties and single person got their own demons, dilemmas, tensions, numbness, helplessness, and hopelessness,self-denial, cowardice, depression and frustrations. The complexity of this movie was so vividly painted on the big screen. This is a great movie.
"No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it"
- Albert Einstein In a film within a film, director Sebastian (Gael
Garcia Bernal) and producer Costa (Luis Tosar) are shooting in
Cochabamba, Bolivia in the year 2000. The film they are working on
proposes to depict Christopher Columbus' exploitation of the indigenous
native population in his voyage to the Americas and the effort of two
priests to stand up to the Catholic Church. Written by Paul Laverty,
the regular screenwriter for British director Ken Loach, and dedicated
to the late progressive historian Howard Zinn, Iciar Bollain's openly
political drama Even the Rain takes on the past history of exploitation
of native populations, showing a parallel to current history.
The film developed through Laverty's desire to dramatize the life of Bartolomé de las Casas, a Dominican friar who become an anti-slavery activist in defiance of the church and his native Spain. Shot in the high Andes because of budgetary constraints, Even the Rain attempts to conflate three levels of exploitation: the historical treatment of the Native Americans by the Spanish conquerors in the 16th century, the actual attempt by Bolivia to cede control of the country's water supply to a British-American corporation, and the filmmakers' cost-cutting that results in the Quechua population being paid only $2.00 an hour as extras.
Opening with a "La Dolce Vita" shot of a wooden crucifix being transported to the mountains by helicopter, the film moves to an open casting call in Cochabamba as hundreds of Bolivians line up to audition for a role in the projected film. Turned away by the producer when the quota of locals is filled, Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri), a vocal political activist demands that the Bolivians be hired even after they are told to leave. As a result of his strong personality, he is selected to play the role of Hatuey, the first Indian to be crucified for resisting the Spanish and Christian empire.
A problem arises, however, when Daniel becomes the leader of a local group protesting the social injustice entailed in Bolivia's privatization of its own water supply (a true event that forbade the native population from collecting their own rainwater). Even after Daniel tells him "You don't understand, water is life," Costa demands that the young actor give up his political campaign to concentrate on the film which needs him desperately. As the director, Sebastian likewise must walk a thin line between balancing his ideals with his powerful desire to present a revisionist history of Columbus to the world. "The protests will be forgotten, but the film will last forever," he argues.
Tosar is outstanding as the arrogant producer who is drawn unwillingly into the political protest. Overheard on a phone call, Costa brusquely tells a foreign investor how he is putting one over on the locals, not realizing that Daniel, standing only a few feet away from him speaks English. Eventually, however, Costa is forced to choose between the success of the film and the demands of his conscience staring at him relentlessly.
Even the Rain tells us that understanding the past is meaningless unless that knowledge can be made relevant to the present day, a lesson that the characters must learn the hard way. In lesser hands, the film could easily have become didactic or preachy, but Bollain maintains a steady hand and the result is an engaging and powerful film that not only speaks out loudly against injustice, but does so with poetry and passion.
EVEN THE RAIN, directed by Icíar Bollaín, is a compelling film which attempts to explore the history of global economics using a kind of cinematic metaphor. Bollain's film focuses on a multinational movie crew that travels to Bolivia to make a film about Christopher Columbus, and examines his agenda of religious, cultural, and monetary exploitation of The New World. The production company hits a snag when locally violent demonstrations breakout against corporate ownership of indigenous water rights, and threaten to make the completion of the film impossible. The movie shows that the issues of wealth, ownership, and power are just as contentious today as they were five hundred years ago. Corporate giants of our era employ the same greedy strategy in an attempt to steal wealth, power, and access from the uninformed and defenseless. Although the ethical issues in the film are sometimes presented in a slightly heavy-handed manner, by the end of the feature, it is evident that the application of rapacious economic policy hasn't changed much since monarchs ruled the world.
Even the Rain (2010)
There are so many stunning, powerful, dramatic, believable moments to this hard hitting film, you wish so much that there weren't a few unreasonable gaffes to the plot and characters. It's frustrating when a film is almost amazing, because you are reminded of what it was not.
But also what it is, which is pretty thrilling and clever.
First, the contemporary setting is based quite closely on the true events of local Bolivians in the third largest city of the country, Cochabamba, fighting for rights to their own water supply. A private (Euro-U.S.) firm has cornered water rights and when the locals try to use their own handmade supply system the police come and interfere. It's maddening to the point of anger on both sides of the screen. In a way, this local uprising against injustice is the movie, the core of the events.
But what makes it actually fabulous is the way it told through the eyes and cameras of a large film crew working on a movie about Christopher Columbus arriving on the shores of America and mistreating the natives. Yes, a parallel that is obvious but handled with dramatic aplomb. There are many moments showing the shooting of the film, and it transports the viewer instantly and beautifully to the Columbus events, which are epic in their own way. But the characters are part professional actors from other countries and part local (and underpaid) extras, some of whom are involved in the water protests when not filming.
So there are several layers of action, tightly interwoven. The disdain and fear of some of the outsiders is believable (the man playing Columbus, Karra Elejalde, is amazing, world weary and tough, taking both sides as needed). Some of the circa 1500 history of resistance by the natives and even the brave defense of the natives by a Spanish priest is inspiring. And the way it still applies 500 years later (500 years!) is depressing. And energizing.
There are some other small problems, maybe the result of editing down too much later, such as the inclusion at the start of black and white video footage, a documentation of the filming, that you think will then become news footage (or not) but then it just disappears as a component of the film, completely, for no reason. And then the tumult of the last half hour with riots and roadblocks is great stuff, really well done, but so highly improbable you have to just write it off to generous screen writing. We aren't really able to believe the wholehearted change of attitude of the producer (played with intensity by Luis Tosar), but it makes for great interpersonal (and sympathetic) dramatics. And finally the director of the movie within the movie is played by the ever beautiful Gael Garcia Bernal, but in fact he's too weak and thoughtful a type to be directing this sprawling and frankly unmanageable movie about Columbus.
But these objections actually only came up for me later, thinking back. While immersed, I was really immersed and impressed. It's an ambitious, smart, and pertinent movie, with great and enjoyable complexity.
I found it very easy to identify with all of the main players thanks to
some great performances from all involved and also a really nicely
written script. It's really well shot with nice big, easily legible
subtitles (more like this please foreign filmmakers!). It was
interesting to see a film set in that region, we don't see very much
from that part of the world. There are also some historical facts about
the conquistadors that I wasn't aware of and so it even educated be a
little! I love the way it slowly dawns on the crew that the mistakes
made 500 years previously are still being made today! Over all, I found
it well worth a look and it's one I would certainly look at again
SteelMonster's verdict: RECOMMENDED
My score: 8.3/10
You can find an expanded version of this review on my blog: Thoughts of a SteelMonster.
As a director named Sebastian (Gael Garcia Bernal)and his crew formed
by his executive producer named Costa (Luis Tosar) and actors realize a
controversial film about Christopher Columbus (Karra Elejalde)
Bartolome De Las Casas (Raul Arevalo) , Montesinos (Carlos Santos) in
Cochabamba , Bolivia, local people rise up against schemes to privatize
the water supply . Spain Conquered the New World for Gold 500 Years
Later, Water is Gold Not Much Else has Changed. Costa has chosen this
place because the budget of the film is tight and extras are cheap , as
he hires a rebel native (Iduviri) . The only thing that matters to him
is his professional pride as a producer that the film is made on time
and within budget.
This is an interesting and thought-provoking film dealing with actual events and past deeds as the first explorations and the way the Spaniards treated the Indians at the time, the Cochabamba revolts , being well interwoven by the screenwriter Paul Laverty and the director . Top-notch main cast as Gael Garcia Bernal as good , idealist filmmaker and Luis Tosar as selfish producer who wishes hire supernumeraries, local actors and extras on the cheap. Very good cinematography by Alex Catalan . Emotive and sensible musical score by Alberto Iglesias .
The real events in which this brooding movie are based result to be the following : The Cochabamba protests of 2000, also known as the "Cochabamba Water Wars", were a series of protests that took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia's third largest city, between January 1999 and April 2000 in response to multinational participation in the infrastructure and management of the city's municipal water supply. Demonstrations erupted when Aguas del Tunari imposed a large rate increase, reportedly to finance a Dam project, a week after taking control of the Cochabamba water supply system. In a country where the minimum wage was less than US$70 per month, many dwellers were hit with monthly water bills of $20 or more. Starting in early January 2000 massive protests in Cochabamba began with Oscar Olivera among the most outspoken leaders against the rate hikes and subsequent water cut-offs. The demonstrators consisted of peasant Irrigators who entered the city either under village banners, or carrying the Wiphala; they were joined by retired . Young men began to try to take over the plaza and a barricade across incoming roadways was set up. Soon they were joined by pieceworkers, sweatshop employees, and street vendors . Anarchists from the middle-classes came from the University of Cochabamba to denounce the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and neoliberalism. The strongest supporters of the demonstration were drawn from the city's growing population of homeless street children .Protesters were able to halt Cochabamba's economy by holding a general strike that shut down the city for four straight days. A ministerial delegation went to Cochabamba and agreed to roll back the water rates; still the demonstration continued.On February 4, 2000, thousands marching in protest were met by troops and law enforcement . Almost 200 demonstrators were arrested; 70 protesters and 51 policemen were injured.Throughout March 2000 the Bolivian hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church tried to mediate between the government and the demonstrators. In the meantime, the Coordinadora made their own referendum and declared that out of fifty thousand votes, 96% demanded the contract with Aguas del Tunari be cancelled. The government's reply under Hugo Banzer was that "There is nothing to negotiate.In April 2000, demonstrators again took over Cochabamba's central plaza. When the leaders of the Coordinadora went to a meeting with the governor at his office they were arrested. Though they were released the following day, some, fearing further government action, fled into hiding. More demonstration leaders were arrested, with some being transferred to a jungle prison in San Joaquin, a remote town in the Amazon rain forest on the border with Brazil. The demonstrations spread quickly to other areas including La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí as well as rural areas. The protesters also expanded their demands calling on the government to resolve unemployment and other economic problems.Soon demonstrators had most of the major highways in Bolivia barricaded. The protest even inspired officers in four La Paz police units to refuse to leave their barracks or obey superiors until a wage dispute was settled.
The motion picture is originally directed by Iciar Bollain . She has worked as a leading actress in selected films like The South (1983) by 'Victor Erice', Malaventura (1988) by 'Manuel Gutiérrez Aragon , Land and Freedom (1995) by Ken Loach, it became an acclaimed audience's and critics' choice ; Leo (2000) by 'Jose Luis Borau' that won the Best Actress nomination Goya Spanish Academy Awards and Nos Miran (2002) . She is a prestigious producer , writing and directing since then both documentaries and fiction films. In 1995, she wrote and directed her feature film debut, ¨Hola, ¿estás sola?¨ (1995), awarded with Best New Director in Valladolid Festival and was nominated for Best Directorial Debut by the Spanish Film Academy. The film became one of Spain's 1996 box office hits. Flowers from another world(1999), was her second feature film and was awarded at Cannes Film Festival 1999, Best Film in the International Critics' Week ; ¨Take my eyes, 2003¨, was her following film as writer and director, winner of 7 Goyas Spanish Academy Awards, including Best Film, among many other international awards. Her next feature film is ¨Mataharis (2007)¨ and is filming ¨Katmandu¨.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A hot director, Sebastian, decides to retell the story of Columbus'
discovery of the new world and put it in its proper perspective. For
that, he and Spanish producer, Costa, decide to set the action for the
movie in Bolivia, a land that has no bearing with Columbus arrival to
the Caribbean island of Hispanola. The only reasoning is to engage the
cheap Indian population in minor roles and as extras paying them $2
dollars for a whole day's work.
Unfortunately for Costa, he manages to upset some of the would be extras when they hear his comments about what he thinks of the people rejected for an audition. Little did Costa know the reaction of Daniel, one of the rejected aspirants for the audition. This man is no fool and he takes issue when Costa speaks his mind belittling the locals, mostly natives. Sebastian, the director sees something in Daniel, a spunk that matches the fire he wants to get in the character of Hatuey, the Indian leader that challenged the invading Spaniards.
There is another subplot going for the film, in that some locals vow to fight the foreign company that is trying to buy the water supply in their country, and who in turn, will be charging the population for the use of the usage of water. The film crew has shot locations in the area where the protests take an ugly turn, complicating things for the Spanish backed production. Costa, gets personally involved when Daniel's daughter has to be taken to a hospital to receive treatment right in the middle of the worst riots.
Iciair Bollain, an actress turned director, has done much better with two of her previous films, "Las flores de otro mundo", and "Te doy mis ojos". She showed an affinity exploring social issues, loneliness in the first instance and domestic abuse in the latter. In this film, working with Paul Laverty, a frequent collaborator of Ken Loach, she has tried to make some sense of the exploitation of her ancestors in the new world, with mixed results. Ultimately, the target seems to be the foreign company that was trying to exploit the Bolivians, a real incident that was viewed as an insult.
Luis Tosar plays Costa, a cynic Spaniard, who was more interested in making a cheap film exploiting the locals than making a statement about the ills of the imperialistic force that enslaved the locals. Gabriel Garcia Bernal plays Sebastian. The surprise here was Juan Carlos Aduviri seen in the dual role of Daniel and Hatuey, the victim of the conquistadors, who shows dignity in the way he approaches his role.
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