Even the Rain (Tambien la Lluvia) -- Film Review

2 REV Even the Rain
2010 Moreno Films
A splendid film about a movie crew blindsided by the real world.

Palm Springs, Calif. -- The Oscar race for best foreign language film is one of the trickiest to predict. So far this year, there is no clear favorite, though many strong candidates. Spain’s entry, "Even the Rain," has a good chance to make the cut.

First of all, it has a bona fide movie star in Gael Garcia Bernal. It also has 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 of all, however, it happens to be an excellent film that will be hard for voters to ignore.  Vitagraph will release the movie around the time of the Oscars, 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 corporate intruders. (The story is set against the real-life water wars in Bolivia in 2000.)  At first the filmmakers try to ignore the turmoil, but eventually their project is threatened by the growing unrest.

While the concept may 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 (the writer of many Ken Loach movies), while Tosar’s performance is at once subtle and shattering.

Another astonishing performance is given by Juan Carlos Aduviri as the 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 portray narcissistic movie stars etched with fine satiric flair.

Director Iciar Bollain includes only a few sequences from the historical epic that 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 settings. Angel Hernandez Zoido does a superb job of editing the riot sequences to convey a sense of frightening immediacy.

In the end, Even the Rain proves to be an intensely moving examination of the possibility of redemption that endures both on and off the screen.

Venue:  Palm Springs International Film Festival
Opens:  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
Production designer:  Juan Pedro de Gaspar
Music:  Alberto Iglesisas
Costume designer:  Sonia Grande
Editor:  Angel Hernandez Zoido
No rating, 104 minutes