Any movie with the complexity of “Even the Rain” should sink under the weight of its ambition. But this highly honored Spanish film — nominated for 13 Goya Awards and Best Foreign Film Oscar — soars high, into the realm of unforgettable experiences.
The title is from a slogan in the recent struggle of Bolivian Indians to retain rights to water. The government wants to take away “our water, our air, even the rain,” say the rebels.
The issue, just one aspect of the film-within-a-film story, is complex in itself. In 2000, the World Bank threatened to withhold a $25 million loan to Bolivia unless it privatized water services, leaving the government pitched against the poorest indigenous and mestizo population of Cochabamba.
That’s the background to a Spanish crew’s arrival in Bolivia to make a film about Christopher Columbus’ colonization of Latin America. The idealistic director, played by Gael Garcia Bernal (“Y Tu Mamá También,” “Motorcycle Diaries”), wants to document and expose Spain’s exploitation and oppression of the native population.
The producer, Luis Tosar (“The Limits of Control”), deals with financial and logistical challenges of the project, oblivious to its historical-political aspirations. The two men, and the crew, slowly realize that they are exploiters themselves, 500 years after Columbus’ conquests.
Notable among the outstanding cast are Karra Elejalde, a dissolute drunk “in real life,” but magnificent when playing Cristóbal Colón; and Bolivian Juan Carlos Aduviri, playing both the man hired to portray the indigenous chief resisting conquistadors and the present-day leader of the insurrection against the government. Both won Goya Awards for their performances.
To add to the Russian nesting-dolls complexity, a filmmaker (Cassandra Ciangherotti) travels with the crew, shooting a documentary about making the Columbus film, and the turmoil surrounding it.
Director Icíar Bollaín, working with Paul Laverty’s screenplay, amazingly doesn’t allow the story to get lost in its layers, which actually make the film richer and more meaningful.
The only weakness is the kumbaya-tinted ending that is at odds with the rest of a clear-eyed, honest, gripping work.
Starring Gael Barcia Bernal, Luis Tosar, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Karra Elejalde
Written by Paul Laverty
Directed by Icíar Bollaín
Running time 1 hour 44 minutes