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2012 | 117 min | R | 1.37:1



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Theatrical release date

 15 February, 2013
 08 February, 2013



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Screenshots from No Blu-ray

No Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 7, 2013

“No” is a creative take on political filmmaking, using a simple step backwards in terms of camera equipment to isolate a time and place with a subtle sense of the video age. It also endeavors to tell a specialized story of marketing, observing the use of television commercial techniques and promotional stratagem to win an election, reducing the urgency of the issues to play a mind game with the masses. It’s fascinating work from director Pablo Larrain and screenwriter Pedro Peirano, who manage to slip into the skin of a beleaguered country and detail the urgency of a revolution, sold one jingle at a time.

In 1988, after 15 years of rule, Chilean President Augusto Pinochet was faced with the reality of a national plebiscite, with the country allowed to vote on his 15-year-long dominance in local politics, a period of time where corruption and human rights offenses were a daily occurrence. To accommodate the demands of democracy, 15 minutes of television time were allotted to each side of the election, with Pinochet’s camp hoping to keep the leader in power with “Yes” votes, while the opposition challenged the status quo with “No.” Fearing a fix and intimidation tactics from Pinochet’s army, the No campaign looks to leadership from Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal), a successful advertising executive who disapproves of the grim footage his team as assembled. Pitching a brighter message with common advertising techniques, Rene builds an impressively produced movement for No, employing humor, anthems, and heartfelt commentary from citizens and leaders. Sensing a tidal change in the future of Chile, the Yes campaign leans on its influence to keep No in line, forcing Rene and his compatriots to secretly organize a revolution, manipulating the country with images and sounds of hope.

Faced with a plethora of media evidence covering the 1988 plebiscite, Larrain makes a surprising visual choice for “No,” electing to capture the entire picture on video tape, mimicking the look of local news broadcasts and campaign footage. It’s a square, blown-out, fuzzy look for the feature, instantly setting a primitive mood and era of communication to best accentuate the war of propaganda that would ensue. While it’s not a revolutionary cinematographic challenge, it’s enough of an aesthetic curveball to hold attention, summoning the moment through a smooth editorial ballet of file footage and the unfolding drama, studying the efforts of No and Yes as they strive to sway the frightened population.

The danger of an election decided by commercials is not lost on the material, with the No campaign blending their message of a brighter future (sold with a catchy song) with political issues, packaging their meaning with rainbow graphics and polite commentary from trusted sources. Rene realizes it’s a war that cannot be won on the facts alone, eschewing the darkness of history for the comfort of a soda commercial, using the airtime to reassure Chile on the eve of their liberation. “No” is more procedural than judgmental, studying the creation of the 15-minute packages, constructed out of secretive shoots and backroom arguments, where Rene strives to keep the No gang cool when the Yes men resort to attacks and aggressive surveillance to preserve the little momentum they have. While it’s a picture of colorful personalities and suspenseful turns of allegiance, at the core of the script is an atmosphere of plasticized political gamesmanship rubbing uncomfortably against real world horror, though the lasting impact of the vote is left unclear.

At two hours, “No” is too long, though flashes of humor remain (tasked with selling microwaves, Rene becomes obsessed with the machine) to maintain pace. As the glue of the production, Bernal is exceptional, conveying the campaign experience through communicative looks, portraying Rene as a man moved by his time with No, gradually transforming from a hired gun to true believer. “No” is as convincing as the commercials it details, creating a unique take on seismic political movement. It’s shot low-fi, but its passion is clear and direct.

Starring: Gael García Bernal, Alfredo Castro
Director: Pablo Larraín

» See full cast & crew

No, Forum Discussions

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