No (2012)

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No 2012 film about the election of PinochetNo is the story of the advertising campaign surrounding the 1988 referendum that was supposed to “elect” General Pinochet to another eight years of dictatorship in Chile, win or lose. Pinochet’s government were an arrogant bunch (15 years of dictatorship will do that to you), to the point that the election was largely seen as a farcical exercise merely to validate his rule. So, the fact that this election campaign won a seemingly unwinnable election, and validated real democracy by beginning the end of Pinochet’s rule, is still a pretty incredible turn of events.

The film itself tells the story of Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal in beard mode) an in demand advertiser with a troubled home life who spearheads the No campaign by putting a positive, consumerist spin on it, with plenty of humour to be had. What’s really inspired about this film is the way it implements the real-life adverts of this campaign into the narrative by filming the entire thing on a low definition, 3/4 Sony U-matic magnetic tape, which was widely used by television news in Chile in the 80s. This is particularly effective because of the way it seamlessly ties original footage with the new, often making it difficult to tell which is which, so that the narrative can never feel lost or alienated in the original source material.

No does a great deal to make the words and discourse behind an election sound very exciting, as well as ratchet up the tension of being constantly watched by abusive government officials. But the film perhaps doesn’t make enough of this surveillance; it largely disappears by the end, and the conflict is somewhat trivialised by the comical tone and overemphasis on the importance of Rene Saavedra’s ad campaign. However, overall No is well performed and assembled to make for a riveting watch, and remains entertaining and fascinating to its conclusion.

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About Author

Adam is a freelance film and music journalist who is also a musician with the groups Post Louis and Spoilers. He graduated from Strathclyde University in English Literature and has worked at both the London and Glasgow Film Festivals and has written programme notes for the Glasgow Film Theatre.

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