Movies about filmmaking can be comedic satires like Tropic Thunder. Or, they can be joyous musicals like Singin' in the Rain. They can even be horror films like Shadow of the Vampire. But rarely do they consist of such powerful human drama and impactful storytelling as in the new Spanish film Even the Rain. Actress turned director Icíar Bollaín has developed the expertly-written script of Paul Laverty into this modern tale of ambition, emotion, and outright survival. Drawing parallels between Spanish imperialism and the modern fight for indigenous rights, Even the Rain follows a group of filmmakers as they attempt to retell the story of the Spanish conquest. What results is a deep, poignant film whose strong characters and emotional arcs successfully carry the film from start to finish.
They knew it was going to be controversial. Christopher Columbus and his Spanish brethren land in the New World and set out on a campaign of genocide and forced conversion against the indigenous Taíno of the Caribbean. The only problem is that the Indians are actually Quechua and the Caribbean is the mountain highlands outside Cochabamba, Bolivia. Such inaccuracies are no mere oversights but rather the brilliant plan of director Sebastián (Gael García Bernal) and his partner Costa (Luis Tosar) to recreate on film the story of the Spanish conquest on a shoe-string budget. When a government plan to privatize the local water supply leads to popular uprisings, life starts to imitate art. Will the director be able to finish his beloved project or will the very real drama playing out before him cause it all to come crashing down?
As Spain's entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 83rd annual Academy Awards, Even the Rain draws on an eclectic mix of talent. Perennial favorite Bernal is his usual high-strung self in the role of the obsessive director Sebastián, the perfect foil to Tosar's rough-edged yet sensitive Costa. Both of them are outshined by first time actor Juan Carlos Aduviri, whose breakout performance as two indigenous leaders, one fighting Columbus and the other the Bolivian government, really sets the film in motion.
The real star of the film however is the script penned by British screenwriter Paul Laverty. Drawing on his first-hand experience traveling through war torn Central America in the 1980s, Laverty creates a tale of filmmaking gone awry that dares to let it's characters waver in morally ambiguous territory right until the end. He injects just the right amount of flawed humanity into the characters to make them and their perilous decisions into a film drama of the highest caliber.
In the hands of less experienced filmmakers, Even the Rain could easily have turned into an overly preachy, hit-you-over-the-head metaphoric tale about the brutal legacy of colonialism. But, this film makes it absolutely clear that there was and still is great injustice in this "New World." What isn't clear is just what exactly are the protagonists going to do. Finish the film about the historic oppression to only turn a blind eye to the modern injustice or dare to get involved in a very real and deadly conflict? Few films dare to tackle both the egotistical, money-driven world of modern filmmaking and the high drama of humanity fighting for its most basic rights. Even the Rain does just that. The result is a work whose message is so abundantly clear yet so gripping to see it unfold as well.
Rating: THREE AND A HALF BONES
Release Date: March 11th, 2011 at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, Michigan; look for it in selected theaters across the country as well
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Luis Tosar, Karra Elejalde, Raul Arevalo, Juan Carlos Aduviri, and Najwa Nimri
Director: Icíar Bollaín
Writer: Paul Laverty