No (Pablo Larraín, 2012)

What's it about? In 1988, General Augusto Pinochet of Chile bowed to international pressure to hold a referendum to decide whether he should stay in power for 8 more years. This is the story of how the opposition mounted an innovative advertising campaign to rouse the apathetic public into voting No.

Is it any good? A fascinating account of a telling moment in politics, whereby marketing power helped determine an electoral outcome, something which is now commonplace in election campaigns. It tells its story in a matter-of-fact manner and is shot in grainy, low-definition, video style, which adds to the authenticity of the 80s setting and mimics the advertising which was so integral to the campaign. Moreover, it allows real TV footage from the time to be seamlessly integrated into the presentation, which gives it a semi-documentary feel. Perhaps a little more dramatic tension in the storytelling would have made it more compelling, but that might have introduced some artificiality into what is a heartfelt film, with a low-key, but typically charismatic turn from Gael García Bernal as the (fictional) advertising executive who masterminds the campaign. 

I don't trust you. What do others think? This is the third film in Chilean director Larraín's trilogy about the Pinochet regime, following the well-received Tony Manero and Post Mortem. This too was enthusiastically received and was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars in 2013. As you might expect, though, some questions were raised over its veracity, particularly in Chile, where it was criticised by both members of the real No campaign and by Pinochet supporters for over-simplifying and mis-representing the situation. Some of the valid criticisms are laid out in a good article here, which both Larraín and García Bernal accept.

Anything else I should know? The Chilean No campaign may represent a key historical moment when a people were mobilised to rise up against an oppressive dictatorship. However, even it pales into comparison with the really famous 'No' campaign of the 80s, which gripped a nation. Anyone remember this?

What does the Fonz think? Yes.

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