The Only Bolivian Actor in ‘Our Brand is Crisis’ Reynaldo Pacheco on Revisiting His Country’s Painful Past

Our Brand is Crisis, the new Sandra Bullock film based on the documentary of the same name, is a fictionalized account of the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. Poised for a devastating loss in his bid for re-election, former president Pedro Castillo (loosely modeled on Gonzalo “Goni” Sánchez de Lozada), recruits a team of American electoral campaign strategists that includes Jane Bodine (Bullock). Nicknamed “Calamity Jane” because of her wild and unpredictable approach to doing anything it takes to win, the film follows the unprecedented way Jane and her team turn Castillo’s campaign around by branding themselves as the only solution to the socio-economic crisis at hand.

The film frames the Bolivian election – which (as it did in real life) ends in violent protests led by an embittered and betrayed electorate – as a personal sparring match between Jane and her political nemesis Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton). But the film also complicates Jane’s own Art of War approach to winning the election, irrespective of what her candidate stands for through the character of Eduardo “Eddie” Camacho. Played by Bolivian actor Reynaldo Pacheco, Eddie is a young idealistic man who truly believes in Castillo, despite the empty promises that characterized his first term in office. This is something his brothers never let him forget, thinking him a duped fool who treasures a picture of when Castillo picked him from a crowd for a photo-op as a young boy. He is a figure of hope in a film that exposes the cynicism inherent in contemporary political campaigns, dangerous enough in the United States, but even more so when paired with a country that so deeply distrusts its leaders and the political establishment.

With Our Brand is Crisis opening in wide release and already sparking necessary debates about U.S. intervention in that fateful 2002 election, Pacheco chatted with us about working alongside a mostly American cast, honoring the history behind the film, and the value of socially conscious storytelling.

On What This Film Means To Him

“There’s a lot of pain. A lot of people died. So for us, it was very, very hard to revisit history.”

Well, first of all, Our Brand is Crisis is a very important story for me. Not only because of the magnitude of the project, but also because it’s a story that changed my country. It’s a story that there was a lot of resistance against at the beginning. There’s a lot of pain. A lot of people died. So for us, it was very, very hard to revisit history. And I think it’s almost like a collective cleanse that we had. That we went through talking so much about it. And finally now I think everyone is very excited about the film. There are two Bolivian actors [in the film]: I was born and raised down there and Dominic Flores is Bolivian by blood, but he was born and he grew up here in the States. So yeah, I was pretty much the only Bolivian actor in the film.

On Creating “Innocent And Pure” Eddie

For me, to create the character, I had to first of all go back to where I was and what was happening in history at that time. I was revisiting the moments where my mom would cry at lunch [out] of concern. There was a concerned, sad, frustrated air in high school. And we were scared, because honestly we know that political decisions in South America are pretty drastic and can change our lives. I also talked to a lot of people that went through the experience – that lost family members that were there. I talked to some of the political candidates – the real ones. I [also] had to learn a dialect, which is called Aymara. It’s an indigenous language. So I had to learn the musicality, and put that on my Spanish and my English. Also, for the character, talking more about the actual technique, I had a very, very interesting journey to get to that state of innocence and openness and just be so trusting and vulnerable and loving. I didn’t realize how much [I’ve] walked away from that as an actor, as a person. We all get hurt, we all get betrayed, and we lose that true state of innocence. And I had to do a lot of cleansing. A lot of forgiveness to myself, to other people, letting things go. Being fully present so I could be in that state where Eddie lives at the beginning of the film.

On The Film’s Political Timeliness

“I think the beauty of Our Brand is Crisis is that more than just a story about a country, it’s about the power of the vote.”

I think the beauty of Our Brand is Crisis is that more than just a story about a country, it’s about the power of the vote. It reminds us that we really have a responsibility. That there’s power behind who we choose. Because in the film, we’re all laughing at the whole situation. We’re having fun. And we’re actually very happy when Castillo wins because we all as an audience identify with as the Castillo campaign, because we’re rooting for Sandra and Eddie, and then suddenly the movie in the last few minutes takes a complete and unexpected twist. I think that’s important for us to have in mind, especially [now] that elections are coming up. We cannot choose somebody who’s gonna bring negativity. Somebody who’s gonna be biased. Somebody who’s going to inflict separation and anger and pain. That’s something we have to be very careful. We need to support somebody that, first of all, is positive. Somebody who’s gonna help us celebrate our diversity in sexuality, in race, in culture. Bringing us together. And I love this message of the film, because you really, really understand the power of the vote, especially towards the end, when you see the cause and effect.

On His Social Justice Non-Profit Changing Stories

I think that storytelling is one of the most powerful tools that we have. Because you not only inform people but you let them go through the experience of another person. So they can truly understand and feel for that person. That’s why I created a non-profit that’s called Changing Stories. Our main goal is to use this power to give voice to those who are unheard. And after you inform — with either a YouTube video or a movie or a short film or whatever the project requires, a documentary — then there’s a plan of action where you can share, use your strength, which is your voice of social media. You can do petitions through other non-profits. There are plans so you can become an active member and not only witness an experience, but make a change and have an impact.

Our Brand is Crisis opens in theaters on October 30, 2015.