(Our review from the Berlin Film Festival re-posted as Even The Rain is finally released in UK cinemas this weekend).
Tambian la Iluvia (Even the Rain) may be directed by the Goya-winning Iciar Bollain, but it is really a passion project for its writer Paul Laverty, whose fascination with Latin American history has shaped much of his work – which notably includes Ken Loach’s Carla’s Song. Laverty and star Luis Tosar were on hand to introduce the film as it screened in the Panorama section here and presented something quite self-consciously polemical in its approach as (like Alex Cox’s superior Walker) it likens events in recent history to those of the colonial past, with emphasis on the exploitation of local people in the pursuit of resources and wealth.
Tosar plays Costa, a movie producer who has moved production of a Christopher Columbus epic to Bolivia in part in order to take advantage of the cheap local labour of one of the most ethnically “Indian” South American populations. The movie’s director is Sebastian, played by the charismatic Gael Garcia Bernal, who is relentlessly hectoring Costa in order to make the realistic, uncompromising picture of his fantasy. He wants to tell the story of the tremendous hardship and injustice visited upon the indigenous populations of the region by the Spanish, but a troubling ironic reality soon becomes apparent: the film team’s treatment of the local people is not a million miles apart from that which he has set out to admonish.
Sebastian is so focused on his film that he risks betraying the very values he set out to promote as increasingly he refuses to consider a worsening present day situation that scares his cast and crew. Meanwhile his pragmatic producer begins to see that there are more important values at sake than filmmaking and good budgeting, and goes on something of a personal journey. This idea of having the internal fiction play out in the internal reality is not too dissimilar from the likes of Black Swan, A Cock and Bull Story or Adaptation in concept and it’s a good way to set about this story. The film is also set against the backdrop of the Water War of April 2000 as local people fought the government in order to expel the foreign companies who controlled the supply of water.
Even the Rain wears its good intentions on its sleeve and, though the earnest dialogue can be a little too on the nose, it’s nothing if not sincere. Tosar and Bernal are good to watch as are the local non-actors like Juan Carlos Aduviri, who plays the politicised Daniel: a Bolivian whose activity at anti-government rallies threatens the production of the film. The parallels between today and the (more overt) colonial world of old are really interesting and relevant at a time where American interests in particular still seek to destabilise and discredit governments that don’t pay tribute (these days measured in oil rather than gold).
These observations are made all the more interesting here as cinema itself is included among those exploitative industries that capitalise on low-cost labour, with major hypocrisy creeping in even whilst directors make good intentioned movies. In fact I can’t help but wonder how much better the local extras were paid on this project compared to those in the film – on which I’m sure budgets were just as tight and strictly enforced. Did they pay the Bolivian actors any more than they legally had to? I’m not accusing, just genuinely asking. In any case, Laverty is so connected to the region and its history that I’d like to assume he wouldn’t be involved with anything exploitative.
Timely and brilliantly conceived as it is, Even the Rain is closer to the excesses of the manipulative Miral than it is to the more anarchic and revolutionary likes of Walker. Perhaps this is a good thing in that an accessible and conventional film has been made here that might find the audience Cox’s film never could. Well acted and entertaining stuff with its heart on its sleeve, but which fails to fully live up to its elaborate and intriguing concept.