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Even the Rain - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Even the Rain
Directing: B+
Acting: A-
Writing: B+
Cinematography: A-
Editing: B+

It can be kind of hard to explain the story of Even the Rain, as its ambitions are multi-leveled, multi-faceted, and in the end not completely realized. But that doesn't stop it from being both engrossing and thought-provoking.

This is the story of a film within a film, both the film and the reality of which are intended to shed new light on the legacy of Christopher Columbus, and more specifically, what his influence did to generations of native peoples for centuries to come. For American audiences, it's a unique perspective, as for once this meditation on the historical impact of Columbus is coming from a Spanish and Latin American perspective. After all, though not Spanish himself, Columbus initiation Spanish colonization in the Western Hemisphere.

And the director of the movie about this, Sebastián (Gael García Bernal), is bent on telling the most truthful story of Columbus -- the one that those who canonize Columbus never tell. In particular, Sebastián wants to tell the story of the enslavement of native peoples. Many of his movie's scenes are presented in Even the Rain as though we're watching parts of that movie itself, and they are fascinating by virtue of Sebastián's insistence on writing dialogue that sticks verbatim to written records from the time. Unfortunately this results in some stilted dialogue; and it doesn't help that Sebastián's script overall never actually seems to be all that good -- something Even the Rain never quite addresses.

But there's a broader point to be made here, and it has to do with the native people cast as characters in Sebastián's movie. They are actually all Bolivian, as the production is located to Bolivia in the interest of saving money. Cast and crew film in and around the city of Cochabamba, where they are soon to learn about a civil dispute between the poor native population and the local water company: the price of water has been tripled, and the people can't afford to pay it. They buy a well, and law enforcement prevents them from building a ditch to being the water to their homes. They won't even allow the people to collect rain water -- hence the title of the film.

When it all comes down to it, that is what Even the Rain is all about: the oppression of the native poor in Latin America. It's a theme virtually nonexistent in U.S. films, which naturally tends to focus on the atrocious treament of Native Americans. But that also results in pretty vast ignorance of the plight of other peoples in our same hemisphere, borne of the very same person (Christopher Columbus), and that alone actually makes Even the Rain a pretty important film.

There's a scene depicting the shooting of a scene, and an actor playing Antonio de Montesinos, the first clergyman ever to publicly denounce the treatment of native peoples. Several natives are being burned at the stake, and Montesinos shouts that "This will be remembered for generations to come!" There's the distinct sense that director Icíar Bollaín would like Even the Rain to be remembered for generations to come, with its parallels between Columbus and present-day racial tensions. Unfortunately, it's just not very likely; the film succeeds at encouraging critical thought but falls a bit short of the necessary crucial impact.

It could be argued that there are moments when things get slightly close to heavy-handed preachiness, but it never truly crosses that line. Even the Rain may not quite be an extraordinary film, but it's still eminently watchable due to both its extraordinary subject matter and the skilled actors involved.

Gael García Bernal tries to make a movie about Columbus with Bolivian natives in 'Even the Rain'.

Overall: B+
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