Even the Rain is a wildly ambitious film that interweaves the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World with the modern-day exploitation of the indigenous South Americans.
Gael García Bernal plays earnest young filmmaker Sebastián, who is on location shooting a movie about the greedy, sadistic Columbus. That location turns out to be land-locked Bolivia, where penny-pinching producer Costa, played by the excellent Luis Tosar, thinks he can get away with paying less for the hordes of extras the shoot requires.
The film takes place at the time of the Bolivian Water Wars in 2000, when thousands took to the streets to protest against astronomical rises in water rates. The parallels between the brutal colonial forces of the past and present are hardly a lesson in subtlety but Scottish writer Paul Laverty (Looking for Eric, Sweet Sixteen) resists painting an anti-globalization polemic. Instead the film-within-a-film acts as a microcosm of the complex colonial/indigenous relationship, with the director torn between doing the right thing and pushing ahead with his “important” film, even if that involves exploiting the native population himself.
It is a little worthy and some of the jarring coincidences that drive the plot feel rather contrived, but outstanding performances from Bernal and Tosar (whose portrayal of Costa, as his conscience veers between pragmatism and guilt, is sublime) ensure Even the Rain is worth exploring.
First published in City A.M.