Last night I was at a showing of the new film Even the Rain at Glasgow University that UNISON sponsored. The showing was organised by Take One Action, Scotland’s global action cinema project. They aim to link audiences, movies, campaigners and communities to inspire shared responses to issues of global concern. I am a big fan of this approach to campaigning as it takes issues like water privatisation into communities in an entertaining way.
The story of the film revolves around a filmmaker Sebastian (Gael García Bernal) who arrives in Cochabamba, Bolivia to make a film about Colombus’s first voyage to the New World and the subsequent subjugation of the indigenous population. He wanted to focus on the experience of of Spanish monks who opposed the treatment of the natives. His producer Costa (Luis Tosar) has chosen Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, because it makes sense economically. Extras are willing to work long hours for just two dollars a day.
Sebastian casts local man Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri) in the role of Hatuey, the Taino chief who led a rebellion against the Spaniards. Daniel is also one of the leaders in the demonstrations against the water price hikes driven by a US water corporation. Intercutting footage of Sebastien’s film with recordings of the actual protests, creates a powerful juxtaposition between the historical and present day events.
After the film we had a short debate on the issues raised by the film. Not surprisingly those who advocate water privatisation in Scotland and elsewhere declined the invitation to debate the issue. More than one billion people worldwide do not have access to basic water and sanitation services. As a consequence a child dies every 15 seconds from diseases related to low water quality.
The UN has declared water as a basic human right but that doesn't stop the water multinationals from profiting from it and exploiting communities across the world. Aided and abetted by institutions like the World Bank, IMF and others. The good news is that communities, like those shown in the film, are fighting back and winning. Even in Europe cities like Paris are returning to a public service model. There is also a strong business funded lobby in Scotland for water privatisation. We should take inspiration from the people of Bolivia and elsewhere when we say our rain is not for sale.