No (2012 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Pablo Larraín|
|Produced by||Daniel Marc Dreifuss
Juan de Dios Larraín
|Screenplay by||Pedro Peirano|
|Based on||El Plebiscito
by Antonio Skármeta
|Starring||Gael García Bernal|
|Music by||Carlos Cabezas|
|Editing by||Andrea Chignoli|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics (US)
Network Releasing (UK)
|Running time||118 minutes|
No is a 2012 Chilean drama film directed by Pablo Larraín. The film is based on the unpublished play El Plebiscito, written by Antonio Skármeta. Mexican actor Gael García Bernal plays René, an in-demand advertising man working in Chile in the late 1980s. The historical moment the film captures is when advertising tactics came to be widely used in political campaigns. The campaign in question was the historic 1988 plebiscite of the Chilean citizenry over whether general Augusto Pinochet should have another 8-year term as President.
After fifteen years of military dictatorship but facing considerable international pressure, the public of Chile is asked by the government to vote in the national plebiscite of 1988 on whether General Augusto Pinochet should stay in power for another eight years or whether there should be an open democratic presidential election the next year.
René Saavedra, a successful advertisement creator, is approached by the "No" side committee to consult on their proposed advertising. Behind the back of his politically conservative boss, Saavedra agrees to come and finds that the advertising in question is a dourly unappealing litany of the regime's abuses created by an organization that has no confidence in its efforts. Enticed with this marketing challenge and his own loathing of Pinochet's tyranny, he proposes with the advertising subcommittee to take a lightheartedly upbeat promotional approach stressing abstract concepts like "happiness" to challenge concerns that voting in a referendum under a notoriously brutal military junta would be politically meaningless and dangerous.
Although Saavedra, his son and his comrades are eventually targeted for intimidation by the authorities while the unorthodox marketing theme is dismissed by some No members as a facile dismissal of the regime's horrific abuses, the proposal is approved for the campaign. Eventually, Saavedra's boss, Lucho, finds out about his employee's activities, but when Saavedra refuses an offer to become a partner if he withdraws, Lucho goes to head the "Yes" campaign as a matter of survival.
The campaign took place in 27 nights of television advertisements, in which each side had 15 minutes per night to present its point of view. Over that month, the "No" campaign, created by the majority of Chile's artistic community, proves effective with a series of entertaining and insightful presentations that have an irresistible cross-demographic appeal. By contrast, the "Yes" campaign's advertising, having only dry positive economic data in its favor and few creative personnel on call, is derided even by government officials as repellently crass and heavy handed.
Although the government tries to interfere with the "No" side with further intimidation and blatant censorship, Saavedra and his team use those tactics to their favor in their marketing and public sympathy shifts to them. As the campaign heats up in the concluding days with the "No" following up with international Hollywood celebrity spots and wildly popular street concert rallies, even police attacks cannot discourage the "No" campaign while the "Yes" side is reduced to desperately parodying the "No" ads.
On the day of the referendum, it momentarily appears that the "Yes" vote has the lead, but the final result turns out to be firmly on the "No" side. However, the final proof of their victory only comes when the troops surrounding the No headquarters strangely withdraw as the news of the Chilean senior military command forcing Pinochet to concede comes through. After the success, Saavedra, undecided as to what to think about it, and his boss resume their normal advertising business with a new Chile being born.
- Gael García Bernal as René Saavedra
- Alfredo Castro as Luis "Lucho" Guzmán
- Luis Gnecco as José Tomás Urrutia
- Antonia Zegers as Verónica Carvajal
- Marcial Tagle as Costa
- Néstor Cantillana as Fernando Arancibia
- Jaime Vadell as Sergio Fernández
- Sergio Hernández
- Alejandro Goic as Ricardo
- Diego Muñoz
- Paloma Moreno
- Patricio Aylwin and Patricio Bañados acting as themselves and also appearing in archival footage
- Richard Dreyfuss, Jane Fonda, Christopher Reeve, and Augusto Pinochet as themselves in archive footage
At the Telluride Film Festival, the film was shown outdoors and was rained on. It was also screened at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. No played as a Spotlight selection at the Sundance Film Festival. Gael García Bernal attended the Toronto International Film Festival where No was screened.
Writing in May 2012, Time Out New York critic David Fear called No "the closest thing to a masterpiece that I've seen so far here in Cannes". Variety reviewer Leslie Felperin felt the film had the "potential to break out of the usual ghettos that keep Latin American cinema walled off from non-Hispanic territories. ....with the international success of Mad Men, marketing campaigners should think about capitalizing on viewers’ fascination everywhere with portraits of the advertising industry itself, engagingly scrutinized here with a delicious, Matthew Weiner-style eye for period detail."
One of the unique features of the film was Larraín's decision to use low definition, ¾ inch Sony U-matic magnetic tape, which was widely used by television news in Chile in the 80s. The Hollywood Reporter argues that this decision probably lessened the film's chances "commercially and with Oscar voters."  The Village Voice reviewer commented that the film "allows Larrain's new material to mesh quite seamlessly with c. 1988 footage of actual police crackdowns and pro-democracy assemblages, an accomplishment in cinematic verisimilitude situated anxiously at the halfway point between Medium Cool and Forrest Gump."
The film received a mixed reception in Chile. Several commentators, including Genaro Arriagada, who directed the "No" campaign, accused the film of simplifying history and in particular of focusing exclusively on the television advertising campaign, ignoring the crucial role that a grassroots voter registration effort played in getting out the "No" vote. Larraín defended the film as art rather than documentary, saying that "a movie is not a testament. It’s just the way we looked at it."
In another criticism, a Chilean political science professor asked if one should really celebrate the moment that political activism turned into marketing, rather than a discussion of principles.
In September 2012, it was selected as Chile's bid for the Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards. In December 2012 it made the January shortlist and was nominated on 10 January 2013.
- List of submissions to the 85th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of Chilean submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
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- No at Box Office Mojo
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- No at Rotten Tomatoes
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- "CICAE". Retrieved 5 December 2012.
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