First Person

Subtitles, social justice, and Gael García Bernal

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Lissette Miller is a former Oxfam Action Corps organizer and student volunteer. She lives in Washington, DC.

I’m quite picky when it comes to films (I’m that guy), but even the rain couldn’t stop me from enjoying the film También la Lluvia (Even the Rain), which I first saw last year at the Coral Gables Arts Cinema in Miami.

For one, the story touches upon issues that will make you want to join a picket line. It takes place in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where a movie is being filmed about the Columbian voyage to the “New World” and their unexpected encounters with its inhabitants. Gael García Bernal plays the director, who hires the local townspeople to portray “Native” people like Hatuey, a 16th century Taíno chief known for leading uprisings against the colonizers. Things get cray when the filmmakers discover the actor playing Hatuey is, in his own life, an active protestor against the privatization of his city’s water plant (a direct allusion to the Cochabamba Water Wars).

Also, Gael García Bernal. I mean, c’mon, the man’s face looks like it was carved by angels. More importantly, he’s a social justice activist at heart who’s been working with Oxfam since 2005. He’s visited Chiapas, Mexico, to meet farmers directly affected by unfair global trade practices. He’s had a hand in urging world leaders to address climate change, and is a supporter of Oxfam’s GROW campaign, or CRECE en Español. Gael, along with friend and fellow actor Diego Luna, founded the non-profit Ambulante, which screens documentary films and hosts training programs in places where they are rarely available.

In También la Lluvia, however, Gael plays a far from compassionate character, who knowingly makes a profit off his low-paid Bolivian crew and continues shooting his movie even as the water protests turn violent.

Stimulating story, aside, I also appreciated that this was a subtitled movie, with the actors speaking Spanish. Seriously, what’s with the movies set outside the US with non-English speaking characters, yet with all-English dialogue? As if everyone in the world is speaking English to one another in weird, obscure accents, maintaining every other aspect of their culture save for their language. Oh, Hollywood, you sly devil, you.

Bottom line: If you’re an Ox-friend, you’ll dig this this movie. También la Lluvia highlights certain injustices done to poor, often-silent populations, and the power they wield when they stand together in opposition, while somehow never straying into preachy-land.

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