Crackling satire, "Even The Rain (También La Lluvia)" is Iciar Bollain's sublime film-within-a-film, paying tribute to indigenous peoples and the late Howard Zinn and his landmark book A People's History Of The United States. Shot in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the film is a social commentary on Spain's centuries of imperialism in Central and South America during the 15th century. "Even The Rain" also highlights a contemporary problem: the government's control and privatization of water in Bolivia, circa 2000, prior to the arrival of populist Evo Morales as the country's president in 2006.
A Spanish movie production on location in Bolivia, led by its self-centered director Sebastian (Gael Garcia Bernal), is under strain from the protests of Cochabamba's local residents demanding that control of the water be ceded to the people. The film's condescending producer Costa (Luis Tosar, "Miami Vice") forges an uneasy relationship with a local, Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri), hired as an extra at Sebastian's insistence. Daniel's enthusiasm in earning a few dollars from his film role is exceeded by his commitment to the protests that have galvanized Cochabamba's residents. Before long the line between art and life has blurred.
"Even The Rain" mixes cocky, amusing self-awareness with moralizing underscored in the film's serious moments, each of which are accompanied by music. The score rings somewhat hollow and a little self-mocking. That's either another level of satire the film shrewdly and often cuttingly wields, or a function of inopportune music edits. More clear however, are the points Ms. Bollain and the film's writer Paul Laverty make. Imperialism has come full circle, reinforced on a micro-level within the confines of a movie set slapped down in the middle of Cochabamba -- by its very nature an invasion and inconvenience. Some of the film's "movie" scenes are more real and jarring than "Even The Rain" is, and therein lies its ingenuity.
The out-of-towners impose an environmental violence of their own making, and Ms. Bollain's cameras capture all of these events, which often feel like a documentary. One of the film's devastating moments is a scene played out in a presidential palace where the filmmakers visit the country's highest-ranking politician. Though not nearly as powerful as anything Mr. Zinn chronicled so powerfully in his writings, "Even The Rain" occasionally challenges, lobbing acerbic dialogue that pounces into the viewer's heart, leaving pangs of pain and quiet, uneasy contemplation.
Ms. Bollain's satirical history film is at its best when it forces its audience to think about the relationships and alliances between the hosts and the invitees. Who are the invitees? Who are the hosts? Who really are the invaders? The protesters or the film's producers? "Even The Rain" hired many real-life local residents of Cochabamba, reinforcing another layer in this terrific movie, which opened in San Francisco on Friday at the Embarcadero Center.
"Even The Rain" is thoroughly compelling from start to finish, sustaining its entertainment value all the way through. Its heart and conscience unmistakably resonate in the final 20 minutes. Ms. Bollain's film may be at its weakest during parts of its climax but it's also at its most heartfelt and sincere. "Even The Rain" fully commits itself to its stated cause long after its rapid-fire volley of equivocations surrounding politics, history and cultural elitism have ceased. None of the film's characters are saints; neither are they absolute villains. Or are they?
The ensemble cast are good, and Mr. Tosar particularly so as Costa, a producer who has to soul search in order to reconcile what he may have wrought in the city he's a stranger to. The director uses Costa as a proxy for the larger historical rapacious beings from Spain who brought Bolivia and other Latin American and South American countries to their knees with violence, murder and wholesale theft of the indigenous peoples' resources -- after which the thieves called those they had pillaged "third world" people.
"Even The Rain" is an excellent and important work. Though some may squirm when watching, the nervy reactions will at the very least be good exercise in the activation of conscience. You know that some of what you are watching is wrong. You feel it. You may be inclined to do something: maybe not use the term "third world" again. It is likely that the filmmakers (and by extension the late Mr. Zinn) would appreciate that as a start, if nothing else.
With: Karra Elejalde, Carlos Santos, Raul Arevalo.
--At the Embarcadero Center.
"Even The Rain (También La Lluvia)" is not rated by the Motion Picture Association Of America. It contains foul language and some bloody violence. The film is in the Spanish language with English subtitles. The film's running time is one hour and 44 minutes.
For a list of Omar's Examiner.com stories and film reviews, click here. He is a contributing film critic for "Ebert Presents At The Movies" on PBS television and also a far flung correspondent for the
preeminent film critic Roger Ebert and a member of the San
Francisco Film Critics Circle.