Set in Bolivia, 'Even the Rain' equates the struggles of the country's modern-day peasants to those of Columbus's day in a sort of elergy to the oppressed.
In "Even the Rain," directed by Iciar Bollaín and written by Ken Loach's longtime screenwriter, Paul Laverty, a film crew arrives in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2000 to shoot a shoestring-budget epic about Columbus's arrival in the Americas. The idealistic director, Sebastián (Gael García Bernal), and his friend Costa (Luis Tosar), his gruff, penny-pinching producer, are revisionists: They want to show how Columbus, obsessed with gold, exploited the indigenous Indians and perpetuated the slave trade.
Since extras are dirt-cheap in Bolivia – $2 a day – Costa is pleased to be shooting on location there. But shortly into the filming a conflict breaks out that in some ways parallels the fictional drama. In what is known as the Bolivian Water War, which occurred for real in April 2000, thousands of locals rebel against the corporate privatization of the city's water supply by a consortium that includes an American multinational.
In other words, "Even the Rain" is essentially three movies in one: The staged reenactment of Columbus's expedition, the filming of that staged expedition, and the contemporary local uprising. It's a lot to bite off, especially since Bollaín's budget doesn't seem to be much larger than Sebastián's.
None of the three story lines is a standout. The reenactments are performed without preamble. Actors strut and fret their hour upon the stage – in this case, the jungle – as if they had been rehearsing with the locals for weeks. I realize this is a form of dramatic shorthand, but it would have been revelatory to see how the Indians reacted to rehearsal and stage direction. (Playacting is perhaps best suited to those whose lives are not so grimly real.)