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Movie Review

Even the Rain

Film-within-a-film takes on politics of exploitation

Juan Carlos Aduviri (left) and Gael García Bernal in “Even the Rain.’’ Juan Carlos Aduviri (left) and Gael García Bernal in “Even the Rain.’’ (Vitagraph Films)
By Loren King
Globe Correspondent / March 4, 2011

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Spanish actress and director Iciar Bollain’s “Even the Rain’’ jumps to an auspicious start: a shot of a giant cross dangling from a helicopter. This homage to an iconic image from Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita’’ is an early tip that this film is an ambitious mix of politics, religion, art, and human drama.

Gael García Bernal plays Sebastian, an earnest film director who arrives with his crew in Bolivia in 2000 to shoot an epic about Columbus’s conquest of the New World. Passionate about his project, Sebastian wants to tell the real story about the oppression of the indigenous population and the efforts of two little-known priests to fight the brutality of the Spaniards as they forced the natives to submit to Christianity (the opening credits dedicate the film to the late Howard Zinn). Sebastian’s practical-minded producer, Carlos (Luis Tosar), has chosen Bolivia as a stand-in for Santo Domingo because production costs are cheap and the region’s peasants will lend authenticity to the film and work as extras for just $2 a day.

Sebastian casts an outspoken native, Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri), in the key role of Hatuey, who is burned alive in the climactic scene of Sebastian’s film for resisting the conquerors. As production gets underway, the filmmakers discover that Daniel is leading protests against a multinational corporation’s efforts to privatize Bolivia’s water supply. (The story draws on actual events in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2000.) As the film-within-a-film progresses, the parallels between past and present exploitation are depicted with vitality and little polemic. “Even the Rain’’ contains timely, gripping sequences of peasants rioting in the streets as the filmmakers sip champagne and fret about their stalled project.

Screenwriter Paul Laverty wrote Ken Loach’s politically themed films “The Wind That Shakes the Barley’’ and “Bread and Roses.’’ Until “Even the Rain’’ succumbs to sentiment as the fictional filmmakers wrestle with crises of conscience that feel forced and schematic, the film’s deft weaving of past and present art and politics is an achievement of surprising and compelling resonance.

Loren King can be reached at loren.king@comcast.net.

EVEN THE RAIN Directed by Iciar Bollain

Written by Paul Laverty

Starring: Gael García Bernal, Luis Tosar, Juan Carlos Aduviri, Karra Elejalde

At: Kendall Square

Running time: 104 minutes

Unrated (violence, language)

In Spanish, with English subtitles

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