Movie Review: Movie making imitates life in the South American film “Even the Rain”

Art doesn’t just imitate life, it comes in direct conflict with it in “Even the Rain,” a movie about making a m0vie and about which is more important, the film or the real world events overtaking it.

In it, a crew comes to Bolivia to make a “Columbus discovers America” bio-drama about early Spanish exploitation of the Indians, and is caught up in South America’s simmering water wars in the process. Liberal, idealistic actors and filmmakers confront their prejudices when the people they need to be extras in their movie seem to be experiencing the very same exploitation that the period piece movie aims to depict from 500 years ago.

Gael Carcia Bernal is well cast as Sebastian, the passionate, idealistic young filmmaker who suffers his producer’s pleas to shoot the movie where Native American extras can be had the cheapest. Costa (Luis Tosar) is the world-weary cynic who knows he can fill the screen “with thousands” for just $2 a day far away from the actual lands Columbus first discovered and colonized.

But from the moment they try to shoo away the left-over extras who turn up for a casting call, there’s trouble. Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri) is his name, a native man who demands that the producers “see everyone,” who all but stages a sit-down strike on the spot until they do.  His appearance, his charisma and his fierce sense of justice make him a natural leader of men. So he and his daughter are cast, even though Costa warns Sebastian “He’ll be trouble.”

The film gets underway, with rehearsals involving  the Spanish cast  immediately mimicking the real-world relations between “Spaniards” and “Indians.” Karra Elejalde plays Anton, the arrogant, hard drinking actor cast as Columbus, a man whose idealism sometimes peeks through his jaded cynicism. In one startling table-read of the script, he drags the other players with him and challenges the native servants at their resort, turning them into characters whom he orders to show him the gold in this newfound land.

But Daniel is the soul of the piece. As scenes from early Spanish-American history are recreated in the jungle outside of town, he is in the middle of a water war. The government has sold old their water rights to a multi-national conglomerate. They are literally turning off the taps on his people as if that is acceptable behavior. Sebastian and Costa frantically try to wrench their star free from the protests he soon is leading.

“Some things are more important than your film,” Daniel lectures. “Water is life. You don’t understand.”

Actress turned director Iciar Bollain, working from a Paul Laverty script, isn’t subtle in making her connections between the film crew’s fantasy world and the harsh realities intruding on it. But I love the way Sebastian’s ego and mania to finish his masterpiece colors his idealism, and the way Costa’s pragmatism gives way to genuine get-involved idealism as the protests grow and a callous government, so eager to help foreign filmmakers, turns on its own people.

It’s not a great film, but “Even the Rain,” opening Friday at the Enzian,  is a pretty good one — well-acted and always with an ear for its own social relevance. This water-rights thing is happening all over the world, a new version of petroleum colonialism. Making movies pales in importance when people are facing the privatization of the world’s most precious resource, from rivers and wells and eventually including “Even the Rain.”

 

Cast: Luis Tosar, Gael Garcia Bernal, Juan Carlos Aduviri

Director: Iciar Bollain

Running time: 1:38

Rating: unrated, with violence and profanity.

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