Sebastián is an idealistic young film director. He has decided to make an honest film about one of the most significant figures in world history – Christopher Columbus. Sebastián is determined to expose the myth that romanticises the advent of ‘civilisation’ in the western hemisphere. Instead, he intends to highlight all the pernicious things that Columbus introduced, such as greed for gold, slavery, and horrific violence against the indigenous peoples who sought to resist the newcomers.
Costa is Sebastián’s friend and producer. His chief worry is making sure that the film will be made on time and within the prescribed budget. Costa chooses Bolivia as their location – because it’s the cheapest and most ‘indigenous’ country in Latin America.
But there is burgeoning social unrest during the shoot in Cochabamba because the water supply has been privatised and sold to an Anglo-American company. The daily militant acts of protest intensify and, in April 2000, turn into the ‘Cochabamba Water Wars’. Five hundred years after Columbus, the indigenous peoples once again find themselves embroiled in a violent confrontation with a well-equipped modern army. Only this time, it’s not about gold, but about a fluid human right: water.
This film is based on a screenplay by Paul Laverty, who has often worked with Ken Loach. Icíar Bollaín: “Directing Paul’s script presented an enormous and exciting challenge: to make three movies in one. Firstly, a period drama, secondly the near-contemporary story of the water conflict and finally, a film connecting the shoot itself to the personal journeys of the main characters, Sebastián and Costa, and the decisions they are forced to make.”