‘Even the Rain’ in Bolivia is not drinkable

Feb 17, 2011 by

‘Even the Rain’ in Bolivia is not drinkable

How do you make a film about colonization? You pick a region (Cochabomba, Bolivia), you travel there (in a shellproof car), you recruit your cast from a long and riotous line of indigenous people (“we’ve been waiting here for hours, you can’t turn us down!”), you teach them the script (be natural, be savage) and you film.

In a word – you colonize. Just differently, later and softer.

How to get around this?  Is the vicious circle inescapable? There is no easy way out , but Iciar Bollain and Paul Laverty  make a stupendous effort. The film is both a documentary and fiction, and neither. It is a film about making a film, a film about chasing history and the present chasing you. As you watch, you feel like opening a Russian doll, or rather, like peeling an onion.

The birdviews are the most beautiful. You wish you could stay in the helicopter forever and never come down. Bolivian forests stretch across the hills in lavish greens that you only see in catalogues, in Aviator, and in Ireland, maybe. They make you believe it’s a dream, but once the camera gets closer to the ground, you notice reds and oranges flickering in between the trees.  Indian faces. Moving. Then you notice dogs behind and you know how the story goes. Cut.

The indigenous women gather around the pond in the middle of a clearing. “You’ve now decided you would drown your children, you don’t want them in this world” – says the director throwing his young hands about, like a scarecrow. His translator is less expressive. The women stand still, like monuments cast in mahogany, their eyes fixed on the director. – “So you step into the water, like for primordial baptism, and when the water reaches your hips, then we cut,” he snatches his fingers in the crystal air but they make no sound, “ we replace the kids with the dolls, and we film from behind….” The women start consulting each other in their dialect. “They will not do it” announces the translator. “Why not?” “They just can’t imagine doing it.” The women leave, the director tries to catch up with them. There are no dogs. Cut

This is just a glimpse, and a simplified one.  The film is full of irony and self-awareness. It shows the problems of former and current Bolivia – of poverty, of lack of water, inequality and extreme violence. “Why is it always so hard?” says one of the main characters. His Spanish friend has no answer. There were two cameras in the film – there could be a third one, showing an international community, in good universities and in good faith. Out of all things American, or just Yalie, I don’t know, their interest in the world’s problems (be it out of imperial responsibility or any other motives) and belief in change are both admiring and infectious. The cinema hall today was packed, and I know that in my Spanish class on Friday we will not follow the syllabus – but speak about Bolivia. And probably several of my undergraduate friends will spend their holidays, gap years or anything there, in NGOs, or somewhere else. Not just to get maturity criterion ticked off on their CVs, but to help and make a change. The films like ‘Tambien la lluvia’  bring out both the urgency and the complexity of the problems of postcolonization. ‘Yuka’ means water in the dialect spoken in the film, and is precious.

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