Director Icíar Bollaín’s brilliant 2010 movie También la lluvia, Even the Rain presents us an engaging example of a contemporary water conflict from the perspective of political ecology and colonialism. The film is about a Mexican film crew (with director Sebastián) arriving at Cochabamba, Bolivia to shoot a post-colonial film on Christopher Columbus’s early conquest to the New World, the violence of these early colonizers in their search for gold over the local communities and the subsequent indigenous resistance. While hiring the Cochabambans as actors for their movie, the film crew finds itself suddenly in a similar kind of colonial/imperial situation: the famous water wars of Cochabamba, Bolivia in 1999-2000. Under closed door negotiations in September 1999, the Bolivian government had signed a contract with the multinational consortium Aguas de Tunari/San-Francisco based construction giant Bechtel to privatize water resources in Cochabamba, which lead to rocketing rates for water for the loval users. Following a series of demonstrations led by Coordinadora (Coalition for the Defense of Water and Life) in Cochabamba and some violent confrontations with the Bolivian armed police forces, the contract was annuled by the government. The events ended with a victory of ecological resistance: the returning of water rights to local communities. Even the Rain is set in the midst of this remarkable episode in the history of political conflicts over water.
One of the fascinating aspects of the movie is the way it meshes together two historical episodes of colonialism, one with the 15th century colonization of the New World and the other water wars of 1999-2000 Cochabamba. While gold is the goal for the early imperialists, water becomes the most precious commodity in the early 21st century context. The movie weaves together these two episodes of imperialist violence over place and the indigenous communities of this place and the resistance to that violence. The film within the film, the one on Columbus is set in the lush watery landscape of Cochabamba valley while the water wars take place in the scorched, waterless urban landscapes of the Cochabamba. This spatial contrast is one of the striking effects of the movie. It is therefore partly about the representation of histories of imperialism, and the continuous presence of the deep colonial past in the everyday landscapes- where the pasr and present are unavoidably intertwined. Here I would like to open the platform for discussion on various aspects of the movie and the political-ecological thoughts that it has provoked in you. Several fascinating ideas were brought up during the discussion on Friday- I would appreciate if those are further articulated here in particular.