Film Analysis by Ian Hyslop
Even the Rain (También la Iluvia) was a movie directed by Icíar Bollaín. It dramatizes a group of filmmakers caught up in a Bolivian protest over water privatization in 2000, while trying to film a movie about Christopher Columbus and Spain’s subjugation of the native people. I found it was a solid narrative that clearly showed how the impacts of colonialism still exist today, but also tended to fall into the white savior trope that many movies that are about marginalized people use. The privatization that is the central conflict of the film ties into the colonialism through the theme of exploitation.
Sebastian (Gael García Bernal) is a screenwriter and director for the film he envisions to highlight the native resistance and defiance of two priests against the church. Costa (Luis Tosar) is the producer trying to balance the tight budget of the film while appeasing Sebastian’s artistic vision. They hire Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri) a native who later leads protests against local water privatization and is injured. Costa offers him decent pay if he promises to stay out of the protests and finish filming. He can’t stop himself from standing up to the government and is arrested. Costa bribes the police so they can film the most important scene. The clash between the militarized police and protestors intensifies and jeopardizes the filming. The film’s climax occurs when Costa drives into the protests with Daniel’s wife to save their injured daughter.
The film actually connects to the real event the Cochabamba Water War of 2000. This event actually took place over 5 months rather than the few weeks that the movie made it seem. Daniel’s leadership of the protests was dramatized, there was a coalition called Coordinadora in Defense of Water and Life that organized the protests, which his character could have been a part of. The violence of the final protest may have also been dramatized, only one man died and many were injured but in the movie it seems like more would have died. The film also downplayed and glossed over how the government was involved other than privatizing the water and that Bolivia is a poor country. After ousting dictators, Bolivia was economically unstable and turned to the World Bank for loans, and to help pay them off chose to privatize their resources. (New Yorker, 2002)
The movie touches on many water themes; the major themes throughout the movie that are all tied together are colonialism, exploitation, and privatization. While the filmmakers are trying to tell a story about native exploitation, the whole reason that the main characters are filming a movie about Columbus and the Tainos (who lived much further north) in Bolivia in the first place is because of their economic instability. They are benefiting off of their poverty, by only paying their extras two dollars a day. Sebastian complains early in the movie that the natives aren’t the right kind of native, they are Quechua; Costa reassures him that “they’re all the same”. Many times Costa mentions how much money they’re saving. This comes to a head when Daniel overhears his conversation on the phone in English with their backers, laughing about how the natives will happily work for two dollars a day. These scenes show how even today natives are exploited when they have less. Costa is on a similar level with the water company even though they are making a movie about the historical exploitation of natives. When the film crew argues about the artistic and historical authenticity of the movie, the Columbus actor says to a priest actor, “How long will you remember that “water” is yaku?” This is foreshadowing for the end of the movie when Daniel gives Costa a small bottle of their water, he will not forget. The exploitation by the film crew that is tied to water is near the end of the movie when they ask the women to drown baby dolls as the natives did when they were escaping from the dogs. They refuse because it is too painful for them, and paraphrasing for them Daniel says, “some things are more important than your film”, their art is secondary to the native pain that is still felt.
The water privatization theme is central to the plot. It begins when the locals are digging a ditch to get water since their well ran dry and are shown chasing off water workers responsible. They later lock up a well and the natives yell at them, saying the water is for their children. The scene that is very important to this theme is when they meet with a government official complicit in the privatization deal.
Sebastian: “I don’t want to be rude, but if someone earns two dollars a day, he can’t pay a 300% increase in the price of water. At least that’s what I’m told.”
Official: “How curious. That’s what I’m told you pay the extras.”
Sebastian: “Yes, but we have a very tight budget.”
Official: “Don’t we all?”
This scene shows how they are all exploiting the natives but they have flimsy ‘reasons’ that they can use to ease their conscience.
One of the main strengths of the film was the juxtaposition of Columbus and Spain’s colonialism with both the modern water privatization and the actions of the film crew. The scene where Daniel is being burned on the cross in the film, the Bolivian police rush in, and his fellows rescue him is one of the more powerful of these juxtapositions. Another is the table read scene, when the actor portraying Columbus yells his lines at the native server, using her as a prop. The writer and director wanted the audience to see how colonialism still affects native people on multiple levels. The aftereffects of colonialism are strong but as the characters grew over the course of the movie, the director showed we have the capacity for some redemption; we have the power to change. The major critiques I would have of this film are lack of historical context and narrative hypocrisy. The villain of the movie, the government official that allowed the water privatization was very flat, and yet the actor who played Columbus was complaining that he wasn’t allowed to show the man’s doubts and anxieties, that he was just a villain, while the priest characters were spun as revolutionaries while they may be somewhere in the middle. They made a point in the movie that they didn’t stick to in their own characterization.My main takeaway from the film is to not think about these things in black and white, the film offers up a specific argument that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story, while it still may be morally right. In the dinner scene when the actor playing Columbus calls out the priest actors for their phony activism and the reality of the gray morality of their characters, the writer is trying to tell the audience that the story art can tell isn’t always reality.
Finnegan, William. “Letter from Bolivia: Leasing the Rain” The New Yorker. April 8th, 2002. https://web.archive.org/web/20070929151555/http://www.waterobservatory.org/library.cfm?refID=33711