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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Oscar Watch: Even the Rain (From Spain)

If The Literacy Project begins to show Friday Night Movies, this is one we must see.

Even the Rain‘s director Iciar Bollain ♀ and its producer Juan Gordon, its U.S. distributor Vitagraph‘s David Schultz,  and one of its most important theatrical exhibitors Landmark Theater’s buyer David McAllister, Maya’s Tonantzin Esparza and I spent an hour in discussion about how the film could and should be released in the U.S..  Luckily for Vitagraph, a small and very well connected distributor whose output is some 15 films a year, the film was completely overlooked in Toronto by larger distributors, perhaps because its star Gael Garcia Bernall was not there to promote it (and he is slated to come to L.A. for its opening premiere) , or perhaps because of the time it was scheduled. 
The film is on its way to the Palm Springs Film Festival and is next traveling Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama.  Those of us who have seen it were thrilled by the depth of the story.  We debated which of the the actors, Gael Garcia Bernal, definitely a star, or Luis Tosar was more appealing.  My preference is for Tosar,  whose film Te doy mis ojos was another overlooked gem and, coincidentally, was also directed by Ms. Bollain. 
The U.S. release is February 11. The five nominations for Best Foreign Language Oscar will be announced January 25, and the Academy Awards ceremony is February 27, 2011.  Fans of the film have good reason to hope.
Even the Rain (Tambian la lluvia) is a political drama, a film within a film, an historical document about contemporary events with actors and characters and action which are often mesmerizing.
Our conversation generated so many ideas and possibilities about the building of effective word of mouth, the release pattern and the possibilities of creating audiences beyond the usual older art house audience (which coincidently is written about in yesterday’s L.A. Times), expanding into the Latino community, connecting with schools and universities (which is what the Spanish distributors did to bring in younger audiences), the church, and water rights groups such as that founded by Matt Damon ( that we all became a little tipsy…or was it the great Spanish rojo we were drinking?
Gael Garcia Bernal plays Sebastian, an obsessed director who travels to Bolivia to shoot a film about the Spanish conquest of America (Columbus in Cuba). He and his crew arrive during the tense time of the Cochabamba water crisis in 2000 when protests broke out daily in response to the government’s decision to privatize the water company. The cost of water went up by up by 300%.  Sebastian’s producer Costa (Luis Tosar) has chosen Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, because it makes sense economically. Extras are willing to work long hours for just two dollars a day. Sebastian casts local man Daniel in the role of Hatuey, the Taino chief who led a rebellion against the Spanish conquistadors.  Daniel is also one of the leaders in the demonstrations against the water hikes. Intercutting footage of Sebastien’s film with recordings of the actual protests, the lines between fiction and reality, past and present, are increasingly blurred.
This film is liked by many and disliked by many for the same reason; its complex construction is sometimes difficult to follow; even Bernal at one point says he feels like he’s in a dream, and it is intensely political, but without any polemics.  To me, it plays like a fictionalized account of the renowned writer Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, the book Hugo Chavez gave to President Obama when he was elected President.
Production company Moreno Films also has just announced its next film, 7 Days in Havana, a compilation in the tradition of Paris, Je t’aime and New York, I Love You.

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