No, Pablo Larrain’s third film in his trilogy about the terrible Pinochet years that straightjacketed democracy in his native Chile, is a kind of Z in reverse. Unlike Z, No dramatizes a happier story – the ouster of Pinochet – though with a qualified ending. Gael Garcia Bernal plays René, a young advertising wiz, who has the unenviable job of creating a campaign to get rid of Pinochet in the 1988 plebiscite, manufactured by the fascist government to keep Pinochet in power for 8 more years. The odds are stacked against him. But he uses advertising tactics to keep the message “positive” and he wins. Chile won. No was shot with old video cameras. The look is evocative of old low-res TV. It works perfectly to set the time and place that seems a little naïve, but set the foundations of contemporary political advertisement – feel good with little substance. Contradictions abound in No – public good vs. its complete sellout, voting “no” to say yes. Larrain illustrates them with brilliant performances and a compelling script. No? Yes!
Originally published in EL Magazine, September 2014.