It’s always refreshing to see a film with a moral conscience that poses relevant, pressing questions – it is doubly different and exciting to see a film that points the questioning finger at the film itself. Such is the curious sensation upon leaving Even The Rain: one has the impression of having seen something very important, yet convinced that there are many, many more important things than the film and cinema itself. It’s a ballsy move for a film to question the importance and relevance of its very existence, but this is just one of the many thorny issues addressed by Iciar Bollain‘s gripping, intelligent drama.
An ambitious young director (Gael Garcia Bernal), and his producer (Luis Tosar) are shooting a film about Christopher Columbus in Bolivia, hiring locals to play the extras and an energetic firebrand Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri) to play the leader of the revolt against Columbus. However Daniel is also caught up in the real life events of the Bolivian Water Wars (a topic previously covered a little more bluntly in Quantum of Solace). The film crew try to ignore the oppression happening just outside the film set, but soon the two are inextricably linked as the violence escalates.
As Colombus’ exploitation of the indigenous population increasingly reflects the way that water companies are exploiting the Bolivians, and the film crew are exploiting the actors, the symbolism verges on the heavy handed. Yet the questions provoked are nevertheless important, and the film mostly delivers them with a hefty gut punch. An early shot of a helicopter flying in a giant cross rings with uneasy colonial symbolism, and the scenes of the film-within-a-film are intensely uncomfortable to watch. It seems that rich people have always been quick to exploit others for their own comfort, but the galling and vital point made here is that it’s not over at all.
This is a heavy, discomfiting issue but the film handles it deftly, not pretending to offer any solutions but merely poking and prodding at inconvenient truths. The western film crew are our way into this world, but as they try to avoid, ignore or run away from the obvious violence and injustice surrounding them, they hold a mirror up to us as viewers, pointing out the way we have a tendency to ignore exploitation if it doesn’t quite fit into our plan. As the actors and crew debate cultural appropriation and ignorance, Bollain and screenwriter Paul Laverty (a regular Ken Loach collaborator) draw out the issues with impressive restraint.
An astonishing cast add weight and credibility to the issues, and each performance is uniformly excellent. Two actors in particular necessitate particular attention. Luis Tosar, as the stubborn producer determined to get the film done cheaply and on time, is a phenomenal screen presence. He’s got a tricky job, as the arc his character goes through is the most likely to ring false and seem disingenuous, yet he performs with admirable conviction and makes the last act seem believable. Juan Carlos Aduviri as the leader of the protests and a key actor in the film has the very intensity that he is picked out for in the casting process in the opening scene. Together the two of them set the film on fire with intelligence and conscience, creating one of the most important films you are likely to see this year. Of course, it’s still hardly the most important thing ever.
Thanks to Edinburgh Filmhouse for screening this.