Thursday, October 15, 2015

Film Recommendation

Columbus Day has come and gone along with the debate over whether the navigator should be viewed as a hero or a villain who began the brutal exploitation of the native peoples of the Americas.

A while ago I saw an excellent movie from Spain called "Even the Rain" ("También la lluvia" in Spanish) which deals with this topic.  The movie was made in 2010, and stars well-known Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal.  The movie was nominated for numerous Goya Awards (Spain's equivalent to the Oscars), and was also nominated as Best Foreign Film for the 2011 Academy Awards.

(image from the web)

I don't want to give too much away, but the premise is that a Spanish film crew is making a movie about Columbus which depicts the enslavement of the indigenous people.  So you have a movie within a movie.  The company is filming this in Bolivia, of all places.  Early in the film someone asks (and I paraphrase), "Why are we making a movie about Columbus in a landlocked nation that was never visited by the explorer?"  The answer is economics; production costs are low.  Locals can be hired as extras and set workers for only $2 a day.  Ironic that the Columbus movie, which sermonizes about exploitation, is using cheap labor.
(As a side note, when "Even the Rain" was released, film critics asked, "How much did they pay the locals employed for the movie's production?"  A valid question.)
The producer and director of the Columbus movie soon realize that exploitation of the indigenous population is not a thing of the past.  While they are filming in Bolivia, life is disrupted by demonstrations protesting price hikes for water.  This is based on actual events that occurred in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba in 2000.  The government had privatized the municipal water utility, handing it over to a consortium of foreign investors.  The consortium immediately raised the water rates by 35%, something that the poor could ill afford.  They also took over and metered the privately owned irrigation wells which the native farmers of the area had dug themselves.  The way the privatization law was written, the consortium could even conceivably charge for the rain water collected by the farmers... hence the name of the movie.
I thought that this was a very thought provoking film.  The story, the acting, and the cinematography were all excellent.  If you are interested in Latin American history and don't mind reading subtitles, I highly recommend it!

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