*** DEBUG END ***

Film about a film

23 May 2012

by Stephen Brown


IF EVEN THE RAIN (Cert. 15) doesn’t anger, sadden, and elate you, it hasn’t done its job. That is assum­ing one can read the often bleached-out subtitles.

Cinematic references abound. Early in the film, a moment of irony echoes Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, when a cross suspended from a plane flies over the far-from-sweet countryside in which Sebastián, an idealist director, is making a movie. It is about the Dominican friar Bar­tolomé de las Casas, who opposed the atrocities that Christopher Columbus inflicted on the Taino Indians.

In a too-obvious parallel to that Spanish imperial exploitation, Sebas­tián’s pragmatic producer, Costa, has chosen Cochabamba, Bolivia, as the shooting location, because he can get away with paying contemporary natives just $2 a day. After having cast (for a pittance) an indigenous extra, Daniel, as leader of the Indians who initially welcomed Columbus’s expedition, Costa soon learns that in real life Daniel is spearheading a revolt against selling off the city’s water supply to an Anglo-American corporate. (There were such “Water Wars” occurring in Bolivia on the cusp of the Millennium.) The ten­sion between getting the film com­pleted and the increasingly violent demonstrations against a 300-per-cent hike in water prices mounts.

Other kinds of tension are just as important to the narrative. Gael Garcia Bernal as Sebastián now adds to his impressive catalogue of per­form­ances (The Motorcycle Diaries, Amores Perros) that of the liberal director on the horns of a moral dilemma. Should he carry on shoot­ing his film in order to persuade world audiences to break with the devastating consequences of a con­tinuing Western colonialism? But if Daniel is allowed to persist in the struggle over that most basic of life-sustaining elements, then the film and its crusading purpose are jeopardised.

As the moral fibre of Sebastián and the heroic opponents of exploitation, so convincingly acted, diminishes in the face of trouble, it is left to the drunken Anton (Karra Elejalde) — the film’s Columbus — to maintain his prophetic stance against the cynicism and hypocrisy of a film industry primarily in­terested in making a buck.

Most significant of all is the changing relationship between Costa (Luis Tosar) and Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri). The manipulative producer softens in the face of Daniel’s pro­mot­ing tenaciously and at great cost values almost foreign to our gold-hungry culture. Repentance and recon­ciliation become possibilities.

Even the Rain packs a punch worthy of Ken Loach’s social realism. This is hardly surprising. The public meeting of the demonstrators has more than a passing likeness to a similar scene in Land and Freedom, which the screenwriter, Paul Laverty, also scripted. This is the first time he has worked with director Icíar Bollaín, his wife.

Laverty is a former Roman Catholic seminarian. While he is clear-sighted about the conquista­dores’ appropriation of Christianity to justify foul greed, there is also admiration for Bartolomé. Unlike the Franciscans shown as providing Columbus with theological underpinning for his misdeeds, this lone Dominican with his railing against genocide is portrayed as “the father of international law”. It falls to Bartolomé and the film’s latter-day whistleblower, Daniel, to be a voice crying in the wilderness.

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

8 September 2022
Church Times Cricket Cup: North v. South
Join us to watch the match at the Walker Cricket Ground, in Southgate, north London.

26 September 2022
What am I living for? God
Sam Wells and Lucy Winkett begin the St Martin-in-the-Fields autumn lecture series in partnership with Church Times.

More events

Job of the Week


The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)