As Alice mentioned in Monday’s post, one of our themes this month is the retelling of familiar tales. Today’s En la Clase connects this theme to the idea of rethinking Columbus, another relevant topic for this time of year, through the film También la lluvia/Even the Rain. If you’re not familiar with the film, here’s a quick synopsis:
Idealistic filmmaker Sebastián (Gael García Bernal, The Motorcycle Diaries) and his cynical producer Costa (Luis Tosar, The Limits of Control) arrive in Bolivia to make a revisionist film about Christopher Columbus’ conquest of the Americas. But as filming commences, the local citizens begin to riot in protest against a multi-national corporation that is taking control of their water supply. With the film shoot in jeopardy, both men find their convictions shaken. Inspired by the real-life Water Wars in Bolivia in the year 2000, Even the Rain explores the lasting effects of Spanish imperialism, still resonating some 500 years later in the continued struggle of indigenous people against oppression and exploitation.
As a story within a story, the film offers a re-telling of Columbus’ conquest and colonization of the Americas through the production of a new film about Columbus. As events unfold during the filming, the historical content of the film is presented in such a way as to draw strong comparisons between Columbus’ actions and those of the actors, producers, and directors. Despite the underlying motivation to produce a more critical version of conquest and colonization, we find history repeating itself hundreds of years later through both the production of the film and the Bolivian Water Wars. The film’s producers describe it in the following way:
“The story intertwines Columbus’ arrival in the Americas with the making of a film; it mixes the Spanish crown’s exploitation of gold in the 16th century with the fight for water in Cochabamba in the year 2000. The film takes us from the fiction of a period film to the reality of a film set in a small Bolivian city. And from that reality to another which is deeper and more dramatic, that faced by people with practically no rights, prohibited by law from collecting even the rain.”
One of the more important facets of the film is the way in which it encourages viewers to question the way in which we form our notions of archetypal “heroes” and “villains.” The film not only complicates the heroic image often painted of Bartolomé de las Casas, but also highlights the ways in which the majority of the main characters act in contradiction to the beliefs they espouse at some point during the film. As viewers we often want to be able to identify the “good guy” and the “bad guy” but the reality is that humans are far more complicated than that.
With the potential to bridge so many important themes and issues, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to create an educator’s guide to accompany the film. The guide provides background information, historical contextualization, general activities for teaching through film, comprehension questions, and reflective writing prompts all to support its use in the classroom.
Just in case you’re still not entirely persuaded of the usefulness of the film, the feedback from our workshop on the film was unanimously positive. All of the teachers thought the film was an incredibly powerful resource for the classroom. We hope you’ll check it out (it’s currently streaming on Netflix. . .). If you do, come back and let us know what you think.
If you’re looking for more teaching materials and resources on how to teach about Columbus, conquest, or colonization in a more critical way, check out our Colonization & Conquest tag where you will find all of our past posts on the topic.