Spring 2013 Features series
Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 8:00pm
Directed by Pablo Larraín
Screenplay by Pablo Larraín
Based on the play by Antonio Skármeta
Starring Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers, and Gael García Bernal
Rated NR ·
USA / France / Chile
This gripping historical drama from director Pablo Larraín stars Gael García Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries, Bad Education) as a savvy young ad exec in 1988 Chile who is recruited to craft the political opposition’s publicity campaign when the rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet is put to a national plebiscite.
In 1988, succumbing to international pressure, Pinochet’s regime called for a national referendum on the proposal to extend the dictator’s presidency a further eight years. The ballot presented two choices: Yes (extend Pinochet’s rule) or No (no more Pinochet). Much of the population believed that the referendum would be rigged, and was merely a front to placate the international community. There was also the problem for many that participating in the referendum would seem to legitimize it. But many in the opposition did not want to pass up this opportunity to peacefully overthrow Pinochet’s near twodecade reign.
Recruited by the “No” side to design their campaign strategy and make use of their designated fifteen minutes per day of airtime, savvy adman René Saavedra (Bernal) realizes that not only does his team have to convince voters to vote “No” — they also have to convince the disparate, isolated segments of the population to go to the polls in the first place. Instinctively understanding that the campaign cannot focus on the pain and suffering the Pinochet regime has caused during its fifteen years in power, Saavedra instead opts for images of happiness and joy, promoting the image of a “new Chile,” complete with a rainbow logo. Heading the “Yes” campaign is Saavedra’s boss, Lucho Guzmán (Alfredo Castro), who goes so far as to offer Saavedra a partnership if he gives up the “No” campaign. As the “No” campaign begins to gain ground, the tension begins to mount between the men as Saavedra and those in the opposition begin to receive death threats.
Completing his trilogy on the Pinochet years begun with Tony Manero and Post Mortem, with No director Pablo Larraín chronicles the fall of the dictatorship, toppled by its own cynical democratic farce that unwittingly released the real democratic yearnings it had managed to suppress for so many years. Engaging, suspenseful and breathlessly paced, No is both a tense political thriller and a vibrant document of Chile’s triumphal return to democracy.
“Pablo Larraín’s superb, Oscar-nominated, fact-based drama, No, explores the power of popular dissent, and the coordinated persuasions of media, marketing, and targeted advertising in shaping the word no to invigorate a populace pessimistically conditioned to think that nothing will ever change for the good. The movie uses period detail, archival footage, and ’80s-era technology to create an excellently authentic, bleached, crummy-looking document of a great democratic accomplishment.” (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly)
“An exceptionally smart political drama with a satirical edge about the 1988 referendum that drove the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet out of office. To portray that turning point in Chile’s history, Mr. Larraín and his cinematographer, Sergio Armstrong, found long-obsolete video cameras of the period and pressed them into service. The results will seem a bit blurry to contemporary eyes, but usefully so. Everything on screen … blends together into a past that’s eerily present. No, should be seen as fiction grounded in historical events. But that doesn’t diminish its value. Like Argo or Zero Dark Thirty, the film dramatizes a fertile subject — in this instance, the language of advertising in modern politics.” (Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal)