Filmmaker Sebastian (Gael García Bernal) and his cynical producer Costa (Luis Tosar) arrive in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to make a film about Columbus’s voyage to the New World and the subjugation of the indigenous population. Just as filming begins, the natives face a crisis when the government privatizes the water company and prices skyrocket. Daily protests erupt and the local man cast as a rebellious 16th-century Taino chief also becomes a leader in the water hike protests. Director Icíar Bollaín intercuts footage of Sebastian’s film with recordings of the demonstrations that occurred during the real-life “Water Wars” that took place when the Bolivian government privatized the water company in 2000. In this masterful film-within-a-film, which is anchored in the philosophies of historian Howard Zinn as well as the stories of 16th-century priests Fathers Bartolome de las Casas and Antonio Montesinos, Bollaín raises questions about exploitation in South America, blurring the lines between past and present, fiction and reality.
Sponsored by the Georges Lurcy Lecture Series Fund at Amherst College, with additional support from the Amherst College Spanish, European Studies and Film and Media Studies Departments. The Spanish Film Club series was made possible with the support of Pragda and the Embassy of Spain in Washington, D.C., Spain-USA Foundation.