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Gael García Bernal, center, in EVEN THE RAIN (Photo: Vitagraph Films)

Directed by Icíar Bollaín
Produced by
Juan Gordon
Written by Paul Laverty
Released by Vitagraph Films
Spanish with English subtitles
Spain/France/Mexico. 104 min. Not Rated
Luis Tosar, Gael García Bernal, Juan Carlos Aduviri, Karra Elejalde, Carlos Santos & Raúl Arévalo

Even the Rain audaciously wrenches easy political correctness into stark reality after a Spanish film crew settles into a Bolivian town up in the Andes. The idealistic director, Sebastian (Gael García Bernal), is full of high-minded, paternalist intentions to present an imperious Christopher Columbus as a brutal gold hunter persecuting the indigenous population and the priests who courageously defended them. As a helicopter lifts a huge cross up the mountain for a realistic colonial crucifixion reenactment, his obsession with assembling nature and men for historic authenticity seems like a combo of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982).

His cynical producer, Costa (Luis Tosar), convinces him that the locations will stand in well for the real Hispaniola because of the tax benefits. Both enthuse over the long lines of local Indian men, women, and children hoping to get work as extras—the director for their distinctive faces, the budget-minded producer for their cheap labor. The most striking face belongs to Daniel (first-time actor Juan Carlos Aduviri), who they pick to play the tribal leader Hatuey, destined for that cross. From the moment Daniel starts organizing those on the line to insist that the production live up to their advertised promises, the filmmakers get a hint that this is someone whose off-camera life is more dynamic than an esoteric resurrection of 16th century history.

Scripter Paul Laverty has written dozens of films, and he well captures the off-screen grumblings and peccadilloes of making a movie on location. In the film within the film, the imported Spanish actors very effectively snap into their period costumes and roles that contrast with their real personalities. However, this is no behind-the-curtain comedy of errors tribute to Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973) or David Mamet’s State and Main (2000). While the foreigners drink wine in their hotel, the local cast members are in a struggle to simply find water to live. The film’s setting and storyline coincides with the violent events that came to be known as the Bolivian Water War of 2000. Irena Salina’s 2008 documentary Flow: For Love of Water provides the factual background on the disastrous efforts to privatize life’s necessary resource—and yes, even the rain. Aduviri is very stirring in his multi-layered roles of portraying the historic rebel whose charisma blends with that of a contemporary leader determined to assure his people’s survival.

How each Spanish crew member reacts to the crisis around them—and learns something about themselves—is completely unexpected, whether they panic or instinctually protect children caught in the brutal chaos. Most surprising is how the selfish producer finds an untapped reservoir of courage and humanity, and Tosar is magnetic in portraying a man who shocks himself when he rises to the occasion. Just as impressive is the mature hand of director Icíar Bollaín. This scenic and gripping roller-coaster is so unlike her intimate domestic abuse drama Take My Eyes (2003), which also co-starred Tosar. Aided by Alex Catalán’s cinematography that beautifully uses a different visual and emotional style for each story thread (where mountain mist from the past parallels with tear gas in the present), Bollaín proves that Kathryn Bigelow is not the only woman director who can take on a complicated ensemble action film with heart and social significance.

This film is dedicated to the late radical historian Howard Zinn, whose work was also the basis for the recent documentary The People Speak that presented an alternative text on colonialism and America’s past. Even the Rain strongly demonstrates the even more tremendous power of fiction to raise viewers’ consciousness about the past and the present. Nora Lee Mandel
February 19, 2011



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