The immortal words, “Are they not men? Do they not have rational souls? Are you not bound to love them as you love yourselves?” were spoken by Antonio de Montesinos, a Dominican friar in Hispaniola in the sixteenth century in a passionate sermon against abuses inflicted upon indigenous slaves through the encomienda systems present in Latin America at the time. In her powerful and emotional new film, Tambien la Lluvia (Even the Rain), director Iciar Bollain shows that these words are as pertinent today as they were 500 years ago.
At the beginning of the film, Costa (Luis Tosar), a determined and business-minded director and his enthusiastic screenwriter Sebastian (Gael Garcia Bernal) are preparing to shoot a film about the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World and the ensuing exploitation and enslavement of the native populations. Despite its historical inaccuracy, budget concerns prompt Costa to film in Cochabamba, Bolivia where extras, he proudly declares, can be paid only $2 a day.
The crew arrives in Bolivia in the midst of the “Cochabamba Water Wars,” a movement to prevent the privatization and increased taxation of the city’s water supply. Despite Costa’s objections, Sebastian casts a tempestuous native named Daniel to play Hatuey, the Taino chief who led a rebellion against the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. As filming begins, the line between the past and the present quickly begins to blur as the film crew realizes the shocking and disturbing parallels between the conditions of indigenous population during the colonization of Latin America and those of today.
Tambien la Lluvia delivers a powerful yet simple message about human rights and the continued exploitation of native populations in Latin America. However, its portrayal of this simple message is done in a complicated way. The film offers no easy solutions. Although corporations, capitalism, cultural prejudices ingrained in the society and ineffective governments all play a role in the continued exploitation of the native populations, the film makes it clear that none of these elements are entirely to blame.
Tambien la Lluvia is not only thought-provoking for the real-life issues that it brings to light, but also for its plot and character development. The characters are multi-dimensional and refuse to fit into the conventional roles of “good guy” and “bad guy.” Sebastian begins the film as an earnest screenwriter, yearning to make a movie about the noble efforts of the Dominican priest Bartolome de las Casas and the Dominican friar Antonio de Montesinos on behalf of the mistreated indigenous people. However, Sebastian is often blinded by his effort to create an immortal piece of art and willingly sacrifices his nobility for his ambitions. Sebastian is enraged to discover Daniel is badly beaten during a protest turned violent — not because Daniel was unjustly treated but because his injuries may interfere with filming. Similarly, Costa laughs when Sebastian points out the historical inaccuracy of using indigenous people of the Andes in a film about Columbus, saying that all native populations are the same so it will not matter. Later, however, he risks his own life trying to rescue a little girl who starred in his film.
Tambien la Lluvia takes its audience on a journey through greed, selfishness, exploitation and, finally, redemption, delivering each line and each scene with realism and profoundness. Those who are looking for a truly transformative movie-going experience should not miss Tambien la Lluvia which hits theaters this Friday, Feb. 18.