A "No" that became a "Yes"
17.10.2012 - Pablo Larraín's No is a must-see account
of a cheeky ad campaign against a dictatorship.
I was excited to see No in its first screening in
ADFF's Narrative Feature Competition; and it wasn't just because I
have Latin American heritage and speak Spanish, but for the simple
reason that it's a film about a turning point in the history of
Chile. It's the story of how a "No" was turned to a "Yes" - how a
"No" to dictatorship became a "Yes" to democracy.
Pablo Larraín, here completing a trilogy about his country's
tumultuous recent history that began with Tony Manero
(2008) and Post Mortem (2010), is able to transport the
viewer to the Chile of the late eighties through his brilliant and
cleverly detailed visual style that combines fiction and footage
from that era. It is 1988 and Chile is at a crossroads. The
government run by dictator Augusto Pinochet is forced under
international pressure to run elections through a national
plebiscite. The regime seeks to camouflage its assumed certain win
by setting up a vote: "Yes" or "No."
The movie begins with Rene Saavedra, an intelligent, shy yet
sarcastic publicist (the brilliant Gael García Bernal) giving a
presentation about a new advertising campaign. He is soon
interrupted with the announcement of a visitor: the leader of the
"No" campaign, Urritia (played by Luis Gnecco). Saavedra is asked
to join their team. At first he hesitates, and is even harassed by
his boss, who is a die-hard supporter of Pinochet and his regime.
We later see Saavedra attending the meetings that will shape the
face of the campaign. Although at first he and his companions do
not see eye to eye on the content of the message they want to send
to the public, they later join forces to produce 15-minute TV
publicity spots characterised by jingles and happy images that are
filled with double entendre. The campaign, which goes on for 27
days, is a success - a fact proved when the government's inevitably
retaliation ultimately fails to intimidate the people.
Larrain shapes all of these elements into what can be considered
a magnificent film, a touching story of bravery and audacity, with
impeccable performances by a truly dedicated cast, including a
masterful lead turn by García Bernal. One leave the theatre with a
great sense of triumph and hope. No is one of those films
that make you truly believe that despite all the chaos, all the
injustice there is in the world, there will always be a way for
good to come out victorious - even in the improbable form of an ad
campaign that changed the history of a nation scarred by a ruthless
dictatorship. Despite trying to avoid all the clichés of film
reviews I cannot help myself but to say that this film is a
No screens at VOX cinemas on Wednesday 17 October at