No (2012)

A dramatization of Chile’s 1988 historical referendum through the eyes of a campaigning ad executive with quite impressive blending of archival footage and period detail. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Pablo Larrain
2012 | Chile | Drama/History | 118 mins | 1.40:1 | Spanish
NC16 (passed clean) for language

Cast: Gael García Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Luis Gnecco 
Plot: An ad executive comes up with a campaign to defeat Augusto Pinochet in Chile’s 1988 referendum.
Awards: Won C.I.C.A.E Award (Cannes);  Nom. for Best Foreign Language Film (Oscars)
International Sales: Funny Balloons

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Sociopolitics, Media
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: In Theatres
First Published: 5 Jul 2013
Spoilers: No

Chile’s frontrunner for the Oscars last year hit the jackpot when it was picked as one of the five eventual nominees to compete for Best Foreign Language Feature. 

Starring Gael Garcia Bernal as Rene, an advertising executive who is tasked to create publicity for the oppositions’ election campaign, No is an account of Chile’s socio-political situation in 1988, when ruling dictator Augusto Pinochet called for a referendum to decide if voters want him in power. 

Rene’s job is simply to sway voters to pick ‘no’ when they cast their ballots.
Director Pablo Larrain, who previously competed at Venice Film Festival with Post Mortem (2010), dramatizes the historical event with a mix of archival footage and filmed material with his cast. 

The result is quite impressive as period detail is rendered with authenticity, with the film feeling as if it was shot in the late 1980s. Moreover, No is exhibited in 4:3 aspect ratio, meaning that it doesn’t fill up the rectangular space of the cinema screen, but projected in a square-ish ‘television’ format, therefore adding a rich touch of nostalgia towards a traditional screening format we rarely see on the big screen anymore.

“I don’t like to talk about democracy as a product, excuse me.”

The power of advertising in particular, and mass communication in general, is shown in No, as Rene uses the medium of television to reach out to Chileans, many of whom have been oppressed for decades by a regime that had been brutal to its opposition and unjust to its people. 

Amid threats toward the safety of his loved ones and himself, Rene continues his ‘No’ campaign, with the ruling party struggling to cope with his strategic approach of leveraging on creative ads and building a consistent political concept behind it.  Much of the humour in this generally serious film comes from the absurdity of cheesy marketing and ridiculous copycat ads.

Larrain’s firm grasp of his content, historical context and visual aesthetics of his film make this an assured effort from a country not well-known for its cinema, even though they have produced acclaimed filmmakers such as Raoul Ruiz, Alejandro Amenabar and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Grade: B+




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