Recently I saw two films, one English, another Spanish, both released last year — Route Irish and Even the Rain. There are no apparent similarity between the two, except that both are purposefully political, and intricately plotted. Then I read the credits, and yes, both the films are written by Paul Laverty.
Laverty, a lawyer and a human rights activist, who has worked in several Latin American countries, has collaborated with Irish filmmaker Ken Loach on several films, starting with Carla’s Song (1996).
Route Irish is also directed by Loach, while the other film is directed by Icíar Bollaín. Route Irish was screened in competition at the Cannes in 2010, and Even the Rain was Spain’s official submission to the Oscars last year. Both are well-made films who deserve to find their audiences. More than that, both the films are aware of the politics that pervade our lives and are not afraid to spell it out, within the context of the dramatic narrative, and sometimes at the expense of it. This is one thing that make these two films unique.
Apparently, the road from the Baghdad airport to the city is called, for some reason, Route Irish. The film concerns Baghdad, and also a few Irish people, who was hired by an UK corporation as private security guards following the fall of Saddam Hussain. Among them are two best friends, Fergus and Frankie, who do the corporation’s bidding, and run riot in the lawless country ravaged by the war. A while later, Fergus returns to his country, goes to prison and his passport is confiscated. Meanwhile, Frankie, who was in Iraq, is killed in action, according to his employers.
Fergus smells a rat. He finds some desperate calls from Frankie on the voice mail of his cellphone. Frankie made the calls the day he died. He visits Frankie’s funeral and gets into a fight with his former bosses, as he demands an explanation. He meets Frankie’s wife, Rachel, who blames him for her husband’s death, for Frankie did not go to Baghdad to earn money, but to be with his best friend, Fergus.
There’s very little of the friendship between Fergus and Frankie on screen. As the film unfolds gradually, we realise that there was a deeper bond between the two men, bordering on something more than just friendship. When Rachel moans that she doesn’t know what to do with Frankie’s ashes, Fergus very eagerly tells her that he won’t mind taking care of it. When Rachel says that she doesn’t know the password of Frankie’s email, and suspects that Fergus would know the information, he lifts the t-shirt of his right arm and reveals a tattoo, Rachel. He says: Yes, we shared everything, except you.
The film takes two routes, both starting and ending with Fergus. He suspects that there’s more to Frankie’s death than meets the eye. He also feels a deep sense of guilt because it was he who coaxed Frankie to come to Iraq. In the process, Fergus discovers some unsavoury truths about the whole business, and as well as about himself.
At the end, he avenges Frankie’s dead, but how would he absolve his own sense of guilt?
Talking about Even the Rain, the issue was also touched upon in the James Bond blockbuster Quantum of Solace, the politics of water in Bolivia. But, instead of making it a thriller, the current film makes it a post-colonial study — 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus landed in Bolivia and exploited the locals for gold. Now, the locals are continued to be exploited, this time for water. As the recent animation film Rango asserts, ‘who holds the control of water holds power.’
So, the Bolivian government has sold the control of water to a multinational. The locals oppose it; but who would listen to these destitute people. To their midst arrives a cinema crew with an emotional director, Sebastian and a taciturn producer, Costa (Luis Tosar, who was so fantastic in another Spanish film Cell 211). When they hold an audition for local extras, the entire community lines up; a few dollars would be more than they can ever dream of. Among those who gets lucky to be selected for a role in the film, is volatile Daniel, the local leader against water privatisation.
The script is smart, almost mathematical. It tells the expatiation of the Spanish conquistadors in the film within the film that Sebastian shots, and the reality that Deniel and his community goes through. In the process, Daniel becomes the centre of the film and its theme: Daniel in his role as an Indian chief protests against the conquistadors, and in his role as a leader of his community, protest against the privatisation of water.
Hence, the title, as Daniel says, his community is exploited so much that even the rain is not for them.