No (2012 film)

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No (2012 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Pablo Larraín
Produced by
  • Daniel Marc Dreifuss
  • Pablo Larraín
  • Juan de Dios Larraín
Screenplay by Pedro Peirano
Based on El Plebiscito 
by Antonio Skármeta
Starring Gael García Bernal
Music by Carlos Cabezas
Cinematography Sergio Armstrong
Edited by Andrea Chignoli
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics (US)
Release dates
  • 18 May 2012 (2012-05-18) (Cannes)
  • 9 August 2012 (2012-08-09) (Chile)
Running time
118 minutes[1]
  • Chile
  • France
  • United States
Language Spanish
Box office $2.4 million[2]

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 The film is based on the unpublished play El Plebiscito, written by Antonio Skármeta.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 dictator Augusto Pinochet should stay in power for another eight years.

At the 85th Academy Awards the film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.[3]


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. The final proof 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.



At the Telluride Film Festival, the film was shown outdoors and was rained on.[4] It was also screened at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland.[5] No played as a Spotlight selection at the Sundance Film Festival.[6] Gael García Bernal attended the Toronto International Film Festival where No was screened.[7]

The film was released in the UK by Network Releasing on 8 February 2013.[8]



Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 93% rating based on 117 reviews.[9]

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".[citation needed] 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."[10]

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." [11] 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."[12]


The film received a mixed reception in Chile.[13] 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."[14]

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.[15]


When screened at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival,[16][17] No won the Art Cinema Award,[18] the top prize in the Directors' Fortnight section.[19]

In September 2012, it was selected as Chile's bid for the Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards.[20] In December 2012 it made the January shortlist and was nominated on 10 January 2013.[21][22]

At the 2012 Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Bernal won the award for Best Actor.[23]

Award / Film Festival Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film Pablo Larraín Nominated
Cannes Film Festival Art Cinema Award Pablo Larraín Won
Cinema for Peace Awards Cinema for Peace Award for Justice Pablo Larraín Won
Hamburg Film Festival Art Cinema Award Pablo Larraín Nominated
Havana Film Festival Best Film Pablo Larraín Won
BFI London Film Festival Best Film Pablo Larraín Nominated
National Board of Review Top Five Foreign Language Films Won
Films from the South Best Feature Pablo Larraín Nominated
Abu Dhabi Film Festival Best Actor Gael García-Bernal Won
São Paulo International Film Festival Best Foreign Language Film Pablo Larraín Won
Thessaloniki International Film Festival Open Horizons Pablo Larraín Won
Tokyo International Film Festival Tokyo Grand Prix Pablo Larraín Nominated
Altazor Award Best Fiction Director Pablo Larraín Won
Best Actor Jaime Vadell Won
Best Screenplay Pedro Peirano Nominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Language Film Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NO (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2012-10-15. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  2. ^ No at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "Oscars: Hollywood announces 85th Academy Award nominations". BBC News. 10 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-10. 
  4. ^ Feinberg, Scott (2 September 2012). "Telluride 2012: Gael Garcia Bernal Reminds Chileans to Just Say 'No' in Cannes Carryover". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Locarno Film Festival focuses on Chile in 2013". This is Chile. 18 October 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  6. ^ "Crystal Fairy and Il Futuro fly flag for Chile at Sundance". This is Chile. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  7. ^ "Chilean filmmakers gain warm reception at Toronto Film Festival". This is Chile. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  8. ^ "Launching Films". Film Distributors Association. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "No (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. 
  10. ^ Felperin, Leslie (2012-05-18). "Review: ‘No’". Variety. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  11. ^ Appelo, Tim (9 October 2012). "OCT 9 2 MOS Latin America's Frontrunner in Foreign Oscar Race is 'No,' With Gael Garcia Bernal". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  12. ^ Pinkerton, Nick (13 October 2012). "NYFF: Pablo Larrain's No and the Marketing of Freedom". The Village Voice. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  13. ^ Rohter, Larry (8 February 2013). "Oscar-Nominated ‘No' Stirring Debate in Chile". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ Rohter, Larry (Feb 8, 2013). "Oscar nominated 'No' stirring debate in Chile". the New York Times. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  15. ^ Fuentes, Claudio (17 August 2012). "NO: tres ideas para destruir la alegría". El Dinamo. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  16. ^ Leffler, Rebecca (24 April 2012). "Cannes 2012: Michel Gondry’s 'The We & The I' to Open Director's Fortnight". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  17. ^ "2012 Selection". Directors' Fortnight. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  18. ^ Ford, Rebecca (2012-05-25). "Cannes 2012: 'No' Takes Top Prize at Directors' Fortnight". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  19. ^ "CICAE". Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  20. ^ Mango, Agustin (24 September 2012). "Chile Sends 'No' to Foreign Oscar Race". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  21. ^ "9 Foreign Language Films Vie For Oscar". Oscars. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  22. ^ "Chilean movie ‘No’ nominated in Oscars". Retrieved 2013-01-11. 
  23. ^ "2012 Awards". Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 

External links[edit]