Spain’s official submission to this year’s Academy Awards, También la lluvia, is a film that draws parallels between the historical European colonization of Central and South America and the more ambiguous economic colonization by multinational corporations today. The common denominator in both is access to natural resources.
The plot follows a fictional film crew as they shoot a movie in Cochabamba, Bolivia on Christopher Columbus’ arrival in today’s Cuba. Much to the crew’s befuddlement and anxiety, the shoot coincides with a resistance movement that flares up when foreign companies attempt to privatize the city’s water supply. The film muddies the distinction between the events so that history is shown to exist in the present.
While the events themselves made the movie exciting (this was the first time I’d heard of the real-life Cochabamba Water Wars), it was the characters’ responses to them that I was drawn to. Despite the obvious connections the film makes between colonization in the past and present, the characters resist acknowledging them. Director Sebastián (played by Gael García Bernal) is visibly moved by the story of Dominican friar Bartolomé de Las Casas who defended the indigenous people against the Spaniards, but he lacks heroism when it comes to speaking out for the indigenous actors in his film. We are not made to despise his cowardice though – his avoidance shows why fictional heroism is so difficult to translate to the real world.
The jaded, alcoholic Antón who plays Columbus (Cristóbal Colón, if you want to be accurate – played by Karra Elejalde) is ironically the only non-indigenous character that understands his relationship to history and the persistence of greed. At one point, the crew is invited to the local government official’s office and Antón sarcastically taunts the official with cries of “Let them eat cake!” as riots erupt outside.
También la lluvia illuminates in a simple and entertaining way why neoliberalism has led to revolution and reform in much of Latin America and perhaps gives us a glimpse of water wars to come. It also encourages the viewer to ask uncomfortable questions about their own moral responsibilities in a living history.