Review: All this and allegory too in ‘Even the Rain’

Jun. 2, 2011 | 0 Comments

Wooden crosses, cross-shaped trees and exploited Indian actor Juan Carlos Aduviri. (Courtesy Vitagraph Films)

REVIEW BY BURL BURLINGAME / bburlingame@staradvertiser.com

Making movies about making movies is a tricky feat. The act of creating a film is, by nature, an artifice that mirrors reality, at least a kind of imagined reality. It conversely requires a suspension of disbelief in the daily difficulties of reality. To cobble together their creative vision, filmmakers have to have tunnel vision, from here to the end of production, and anything that gets in the way has to be ignored or juggled.

And so, when a Spanish film crew arrives in the mountains of Bolivia to shoot a mini-epic about the arrival of Columbus in the New World, and their script grandly preaches a liberal agenda about exploitation of the Indians, it’s just too perfect that the filmmakers blithely exploit the present-day Indian population. After all, Bolivia is hundreds of miles from where Columbus actually landed, and the “Indians” aren’t the same tribe and speak a different language, but who will know, other than the Indians? An Indian is an Indian, and more importantly, Bolivian Indians work cheaper than Caribbean Indians. They’ll even do non-union manual labor on the sets.

“Even the Rain” is set a decade ago during the World Bank utility crisis in Bolivia, and the film crew arrives in the midst of what is known today as the “Cochcabamba Water Riots,” when the Bolivian government tried to privatize natural resources. Dirt-poor Bolivians were required to pay tax even on their collected rain water. Smug in their heavy-handed moralizations, the film crew is oblivious to the bubbling animosity of the local residents. It all backfires when riots break out and the production is placed in jeopardy — trouble they should have seen brewing from miles away.

There’s an early line in the film in which hard-nosed producer Costa (played by tough guy Luis Tosar) complains to the director that they could have gotten more budget if he had agreed to make the film in English. The milquetoasty director (Gael Garcia Bernal, looking like a young Martin Landau) argues that the Spanish in 1492 didn’t speak English. He wants a pure film. Never mind about that Indian language problem.

Since the film is written by Scottish scriptwriter Paul Laverty, you have to wonder if the producer’s lament is a line from reality. “Even the Rain” is directed by stunning Spanish actress Iclar Bollain, and she not only draws terrific performances from the cast, she cunningly turns these performances inside out, showing the technique of acting a reality where none exists. The film includes segments of the film being shot — too well-edited to be considered daily rushes — and it looks truly horrible, just the sort of self-loathing claptrap that Catholics like to inflict upon themselves. It’s moral flagellation. The director is so convinced of his rightness of purpose that he declares his vision will live forever, while the problems of exploited Indians will fade away.

Luis Tosar as the producer and Gael Garcia Bernal as the director are the yin-yang of filmmaking ethics. (Courtesy Vitagraph Films)

One sticky point. He has cast a local Indian political leader in a key role in the film, and the military police would love to gun him down. But without him, the production grinds to a halt. Where does commerce, art and creativity collide here? As the Indian leader, Bolivian actor Juan Carlos Aduviri has a moral clarity that is unsettling around the skin-deep ethics of the real actors (who playing actors, after all).

It turns out that Costa is the character with the biggest humility arc here, turning from a hard-assed businessman into a guy with a conscience. It’s smart and interesting casting, because Tosar is such a physical caricature of a tough guy.

If you can handle a few scenes of hammeringly obvious metaphor, and a nerve-wracking, Hollywoodish ending during a scary street riot, “Even The Rain” is a rich, multi-layered film that gives an involved viewer much to think about.

“Even The Rain”
Not Rated
Opens Friday at Consolidated Kahala

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