When I heard that a film was made recently about the water wars in 2000 in Cochabamba, Bolivia (where I’ll be spending at least three months beginning in July), I knew I had to see it. The film-within-a-film Even the Rain (También La Lluvia) is for anybody traveling to South America or hoping to learn a little more about the struggles of its indigenous peoples.
Even The Rain is about a group of Spanish filmmakers who travel to Cochabamba in 2000 to make a period piece about Christopher Colombus on a tight budget. Cochabamba’s people look the part of natives and their wages are low.
As the casting and filming begins, the Spanish film crew comes to realize the irony and parallelism of the Spanish imperialism they are reenacting and their own exploitation of cheap labor in Bolivia. In candid moments of ‘making-of’ commentary about their film project, they recognize their own conquistador lust for profits and fame.
Soon, their moral dilemma intensifies. Political turbulence starts erupting around them. The local government is arranging to allow multinational corporations to privatize the water system in Cochabamba. Increases in water prices would make water inaccessible to the city’s impoverished majority. Indigenous activists start organizing to fight against the forces who want to make all water, even the rain, a costly commodity.
At the heart of the people’s movement is Daniel, an indigenous organizer who is also a lead actor in the Spaniards’ film. Despite the filmmakers’ efforts to keep him uninvolved in the turmoil, his leadership in the fight for water rights never wavers.
Even The Rain is a meta-film whose plots and messages run in three parallel lines. The Spanish conquest in the 16th century is mirrored by both a fictional Spanish film project and a factual water privatization attempt in 2000 in Cochabamba.
Similarly, three heroes mirror each other in the parallel storytelling. The hero of the Spaniard’s 16th century period film is Bartolomé de las Casas, a Spanish bishop in Mexico who spoke out against the Church as an indigenous rights activist ahead of his time. Sebastián is the Spanish film director who is driven not by greed but by passion about telling las Casas’ story. Finally, Daniel is the fictional champion of the factual movement that successfully prevented water privatization in 2000.
For more on the Bolivia Water Wars, see the 2003 documentary ‘The Corporation.’