Uprisings are on our TVs, computers and now in our art house cinemas. In the satire Even the Rain, a film shoot in Bolivia is put into jeopardy when the locals explode into protests after the government threatens to privatize the water, thereby violently raising the costs to a size few of the low income denizens could afford. The timing couldn’t be better, but timeliness isn’t all actress-turned-director Icíar Bollaín’s film has going for it.
Director Sebastián (Gael García Bernal), an idealist in theory only, and producer Costa (Luis Tosar), a penny-pinching cynic, have traveled to the city of Cochabamba to film a revisionist retelling of Christopher Columbus, which portrays the explorers as religious zealots and imperialists, mistreating and murdering the natives. These well-intentioned filmmakers, while concerned about the mistreatment of the “Indians” in the distant past, are reluctant to care about the mistreatment of the same right before their eyes. First, they can’t accommodate the hundreds of locals who turn up for a cattle call for extras. Then they can’t pay them more than $2 a day. Finally, they find themselves conflicted over the protests that suck up certain prominent cast members, notably a fiery rabble rouser (Juan Carlos Aduviri). If they support it, the film is certain peril; if not, they’ll find it difficult to live with themselves.
A more scathing lampoon wouldn’t allow them such ambivalence, particularly if they were Hollywood filmmakers. But Even the Rain is in part about the stubborn political awakening of its two leads. (In a nice twist, Tosar’s foul-mouthed producer caves before long before Bernal’s emotional director.) In essence, it wants to have its cake and eat it, too: it wants to send up liberals who talk the talk but won’t walk the walk, but it also wants to be a work of humanism, a trait that doesn’t traditionally jibe so swimmingly with satire. And yet here it more or less does. The script, by Ken Loach regular Paul Laverty (The Wind That Shakes the Barley), is rich with detail and surprisingly subtle characterizations that by the time all traces of gallows humor have dissipated, it doesn’t feel like a separate film.