Sunday, August 12, 2012

In 1988, under international pressure to legitimize his rule over Chile, Augusto Pinochet held a referendum. Vote "Si" for 8 more years of Pinochet or vote "No" to have a presidential election. Each side would get 15 minutes air time on TV late each night for 27 nights (though all the media was under government control anyway, so the No campaign see it as 15 minutes for them and 23 hours and 45 minutes for the government).

The Chilean film No starts with someone from the No campaign trying to recruit advertising 'creative' René to work on the campaign. But René isn't interested, but reluctantly agrees to give his opinion on the material they have so far. After 15 years of dictatorship, Pinochet built up a lot of resentment in those opposed to him (those who were not among the thousands who were killed). This shows in the TV campaign the anti-Pinochet coalition have prepared. In René's opinion with such boring, factual, backward looking and depressing material the No campaign is guaranteed to loose. Challenged to do better he recycles ideas from a recent soft drink advertising campaign and a logo with a rainbow in it. As René is drawn into the No campaign, his boss is recruited by the other side. As the effectiveness of René's approach becomes apparent to the government, the campaign turns nasty both on screen and off screen.

No is an effective vehicle for portraying both the nastiness of the Pinochet's government and the month leading up to the referendum. It is a referendum which many anti-Pinochet people expect the government to rig and so the ending takes people by surprise.

No was filmed using rebuilt Sony U-matic video cameras to give it an authentic early 1980s feel, this means it doesn't look good on a big cinema screen (and for some reason the Embassy had the curtains adjusted wrong, cutting off the first and last letters of some of the sub-titles). There is almost no time given over to character development so even by the end we hardly know René better than the minor characters.

In the final scene René and his boss are working on another advertising campaign using familiar ideas and I wondered if the message was "political campaigning is just advertising".

Ian's rating 2.5/5, Anne's rating 2/5

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:38 pm

    Doesn't bode well - I am seeing this tomorrow night at the Melbourne film fest! Interestingly it's the only film you've reviewed that is in the festival here. My favourite from this year was Flicker - a quirky and very funny Swedish comedy by Patrik Eklund. - Antony K.