In Even the Rain we are initially introduced to a Spanish film crew that has arrived in Cochabamba, Bolivia to shoot what they believe will be a controversial depiction of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the ‘new world’ and the terror that is unleashed on the native populations. Ensconced in a partially awakened, yet still privileged, liberal worldview the director Sebastián (Gael Garcia Bernal) has a dream to provide a new understanding of the depredation and destruction of the Spanish invasion and occupation. In order to fulfill this cinematic dream, and aided by his producer Costa (Luis Tosar), he is required to hire the services of local Bolivians. This is where the film begins to open up into a dialogic exploration of the different realities coming into play around a central issue and why we must be aware, and open to, the multiple perspectives involved. Key to this is an understanding of how the dominant narrative often works to erase other perspectives and/or works to minimize an understanding or belief in the possibilities of minoritized positions.
Sebastián seeks to bring an awareness of the terror of the historical colonial era, but fails to see/understand the similar colonizing relations of the new global order. His filming within a film is taking place in the midst of the 1999 Bolivian Water Wars in which a multinational (German/USA) company has privatized the Bolivian water services and made it illegal for individuals/communities to collect water. One of the non-professional extras is Daniel (a dynamic Juan Carlos Adviri) hired to play the role of Hatuey, a native resistance leader who is eventually crucified by the Spanish invaders. Unbeknown to the filmmakers, Daniel is a committed political activist leading the resistance to the contemporary colonization of Bolivia’s natural resources. The film within a film begins to open up the narratives from past to present, from Spanish filmmakers to Bolivian extras, from corporate claims to native rights, from conservative politicians to liberal elites, multiplying the discourses in a way that provides a powerful dialogic awakening in the filmmakers and the audience.
Michael Dean Benton is a Humanities professor at Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington, KY. He teaches World Cinema, Peace & Conflict Studies, and writing/rhetoric. He also runs the Bluegrass Film Society. Please feel free to contact him as he believes in the power of dialogic engagement.