Sebastian's focus for his film are the experiences of Bartolome de las Casas and Antonion de Montesinos, who were so distraught over the treatment of the natives during the Columbus subjugation that they dedicate the rest of their lives to aiding their cause. Costa has chosen to shoot the film in Bolivia, South America's poorest country, to keep production costs down. The team arrives in Cochabamba with the agenda of hiring hundreds of Bolivian extras (on $2 a day) to play the native Indians.
Costa receives hostile protest from one man, Daniel (a great performance from an unknown Juan Carlos Aduviri), after Costa proclaims he would not see all of the locals seeking a job as an extra. Sebastian is so impressed by Daniel's outspoken and passionate leadership that he hires him to play a key role in the film. Sebastian and Costa soon realises that there is a serious water shortage crisis in Cochabamba, with the government deciding to privatise water and export it internationally. Gold, it seems, has become water.
Daniel is the headstrong and persuasive leader of his community's demonstrations against the multinational corporation controlling their water supply. As the production progresses, Daniel's frustration at the Government's refusal to honour their request leads to more violent demonstrations, eventually culminating in fierce rioting in the streets. Sebastian and Costa, determined to finish their film and remain uninvolved with the issues, find themselves embroiled in the struggle.
The boundaries between the events of Sebastian's film and the growing communal unrest begins to blur. Bollain quite successfully balances three different stories; the experiences of the cast and crew working on the film, the actual film they are shooting (essentially a historical account of the politics plaguing Bolivia at the present) and the struggle for the termination of privatised water. The film does become a little overtly symbolic, but it is actively paced, remains consistently engaging throughout and is ultimately touching. While Sebastian was the key character who felt underdeveloped, I think Paul Laverty's screenplay covered a lot in a relatively concise running time, and I was surprised at how far the story escalated. Sebastian's 'passion' for the project isn't really conveyed, and while I expected Gael Garcia Bernal to be the central character, it wasn't clear that was to be the case.
While it is usual for the director to feel the most pressure during filmmaking, in this instance it is Costa who has the toughest job - at first trying to keep his budget low, then needing to make the choice between completing his film and being an integral part of something more important - the wellbeing of the exploited locals (who he owes so much to) and the safety of his team. Costa is the more challenged of the two, and because of the development of his friendship with Daniel (and his decision to help Daniel's wife locate his injured daughter) he becomes the relatable central protagonist.
Luis Tosar, who I had previously seen in Cell 211, is a captivating presence. I always find Gael Garcia Bernal very compelling too, and the best moments of the film were the ones that pitted these two charismatic actors against one another. Both men are challenged to make important moral choices, with their assertions to helping these people shifting and reversing quite powerfully. Even the Rain is also technically very impressive. Stunning cinematography, effective editing and a gripping score enhance the story to make this very worthwhile viewing.
My Rating: 4 Stars (B)