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Among the contenders for foreign-language film, Spain’s entry, Even the Rain, has a very good chance at getting a nomination. It has a bona fide movie star in Gael Garcia Bernal and a strong social conscience that often appeals to the Academy’s liberal wing. Beyond that, its story about the unexpected perils of filmmaking will strike a chord with industry insiders.
Most important: It happens to be an excellent film that will be hard for voters to ignore. Vitagraph will release the movie around Oscar time, and if it scores a nomination, it could generate nice business on the specialty circuit.
A Spanish film crew arrives in Bolivia to dish the dirt on Christopher Columbus and his exploitation of native Indian populations during his journeys to the New World. The director, Sebastian (Bernal), dreams of making an epic that will expose the imperialist sins of his ancestors. But while they are preparing their shoot, they suddenly confront contemporary South American politics.
A multinational corporation plans to privatize the city’s water supply, and several locals participating in the filming get involved in increasingly violent demonstrations against the intruders. (The story is set against Bolivia’s real-life water wars in 2000.) At first the filmmakers try to ignore the turmoil, but eventually their project is threatened by the growing unrest.
Although the concept might sound schematic, it is brought to vivid life by wonderful characterizations.
The main character is not Bernal’s Sebastian but his crass producer, Costa (Luis Tosar), who goes through the most dramatic transformation while making the film. His gradual moral awakening is beautifully rendered in the script by Paul Laverty (writer of many Ken Loach movies), and Tosar’s performance is at once subtle and shattering.
Another astonishing performance comes from Juan Carlos Aduviri as leader of the rebels, who is given a parallel part in the film-within-the-film as an Indian tribesman oppressed by the conquering Spaniards. Aduviri, discovered during open casting, seems remarkably unaffected and fiery. Bernal and the other actors find rich dimensions in their portrayals as some play narcissistic movie stars etched with fine satiric flair.
Director Iciar Bollain includes only a few sequences from the historical epic the film company is making, but these episodes have the scope needed to enrich the film’s survey of colonialism through the ages. Alex Catalan’s cinematography takes full advantage of the lush setting, and Angel Hernandez Zoido does a superb job editing the riot sequences to convey a sense of frightening immediacy.
In the end, Even the Rain proves an intensely moving examination of the possibility of redemption that endures on and off the screen.
Screened: Palm Springs International Film Festival
Release date: Friday, Feb. 18 (Vitagraph Films)
Cast: Luis Tosar, Gael Garcia Bernal, Juan Carlos Aduviri, Karra Elejalde, Carlos Santos, Raul Arevalo
Director: Iciar Bollain Screenwriter: Paul Laverty Producer: Juan Gordon Director of photography: Alex Catalan
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