“A challenge for me and the whole team”
by Alfonso Rivera
04/12/2010 - Cineuropa: Is Even the Rain [trailer, film focus] your most ambitious film?
Icíar Bollaín: Yes, it’s the most complicated to date. It was like those I made in the past, but multiplied by twenty. We shot it using two cameras at the same time, over eight weeks in Bolivia. I imagined we’d have more problems but we had a great Bolivian team, and a lot of luck with the weather and with local institutions. We also tried to involve the locals and make them feel the film was their project too, so they felt a part of it.
Was there a lot of preparatory work to be done?
We worked our guts out over a short space of time. I worked a lot with DoP Alex Catalán on how we were going to tell the story. For example, the water war is shown from inside a car. There are visual and sound solutions: sometimes the noise – like that of a helicopter that we hear but don’t see – gives you a sense of the scale of the scene. Or putting a boat under construction in one sequence – this is very suggestive. For there is a lot of suggestion in the film. Instead of using $40m, like US filmmakers, we suggested a lot with the budget we had, about €5m.
Is it true this is the first time you’ve directed a script written by someone else?
Yes, but I closely followed Paul’s working process – a real gift. It was a challenge for me and the whole team. Everybody had to make an effort. Rarely does a script demand so much of you: in terms of casting, production and directing the actors. Furthermore, it explores very powerful themes: water, which draws a parallel with the conquest of America; the idea that the characters are in a sense in a film and in another sense in real life, etc. I thought it was a very interesting script because all the characters evolve: they arrive in a different place from where they set out. They spout ideals but in the hour of truth.... Then there’s how moviemakers shooting socially critical films do it on the cheap and pay very little, and don’t come out looking good.
The film pays homage to cinema and is also critical of it.
Yes, there is the homage aspect, such as showing what it takes to get a production off the ground. There’s a scene in which the director, feeling overwhelmed by circumstances, can’t take any more and is about to throw in the towel. And then there’s the cynicism of arriving in a country for a film shoot and paying the locals very little.
Why did you choose to offer this little-known vision of the discovery of America?
Paul had the courage to do it. There is a very interesting part of the conquest: what Columbus set in motion, a formidable wheel of trade that includes exploitation. He made four trips to the New World, the final one with 17 caravels full of fanatics in search of gold. He’s a more interesting character than the one we’ve learned about: he promised much hope and wealth, but he found little of that there. It was all much more turbulent than expected. People don’t say that here, in Spain, because Columbus is a national hero, but it’s a very interesting part of the history.
Is it necessary to stir consciences, which have gone to sleep of late?
I think that’s a good idea: the main thing is to give viewers a good story and move them, and if afterwards, when they’re home, they think about it, that’s great. It’s not unwarranted to talk about the privatisation of water, because the profits are pocketed by four multinationals that are only concerned with their gain, not the common good.
So is the adjective “political” a good way to describe Even the Rain?
I think it’s more than that, but yes. There is a fantastic form of political cinema which isn’t fashionable nowadays. The script isn’t nice to the story it tells; what happens is that “political cinema” is a label that sounds quite unattractive and less commercial, even though the film is an exciting experience, in my opinion. If you say political and exciting, it’s as if the two don’t fit together. Nowadays, politics is discredited. The film is politically charged but we live in a very sceptical age and we need more and better politics. Paul’s idea was, “I’m going to tell you this, but in the context of a moving drama”.