No (2012 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byPablo Larraín
Screenplay byPedro Peirano
Based onEl Plebiscito
by Antonio Skármeta
Produced by
  • Daniel Marc Dreifuss
  • Pablo Larraín
  • Juan de Dios Larraín
StarringGael García Bernal
CinematographySergio Armstrong
Edited byAndrea Chignoli
Music byCarlos Cabezas
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics (United States)
Wild Bunch (France)
Release dates
  • 18 May 2012 (2012-05-18) (Cannes)
  • 9 August 2012 (2012-08-09) (Chile)
  • 16 November 2012 (2012-11-16) (premiere)
  • 15 February 2013 (2013-02-15) (US)
Running time
118 minutes[1]
  • Chile
  • France
  • United States
Box office$7.7 million[2]

No is a 2012 historical drama film directed by Pablo Larraín. The film is based on the unpublished stage play El Plebiscito written by Antonio Skármeta.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 film captures the advertising tactics in the political campaigns for the 1988 Chilean national plebiscite, when the citizenry decided whether or not 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 and under significant international pressure, the Chilean regime calls for a national plebiscite in 1988 to determine whether General Augusto Pinochet should remain in power for another eight years or whether there should be an open democratic presidential election the following year. René Saavedra, a successful advertising creator, is approached by the "No" campaign to consult on their advertising. Despite his politically conservative boss's disapproval, Saavedra agrees to participate and discovers that the advertising is a depressing catalogue of the regime's abuses, created by an organization lacking confidence in its efforts. Saavedra proposes a lighthearted, optimistic approach that emphasizes abstract concepts like "joy" to counter fears that voting in a referendum under a notoriously brutal military junta would be politically meaningless and risky.

While some members of the "No" campaign dismiss the unorthodox marketing theme as a facile dismissal of the regime's horrific abuses, the proposal is approved. Saavedra, his son, and his colleagues are eventually targeted and intimidated by the authorities. When Saavedra's boss, Lucho, discovers his employee's activities, he offers him a partnership if he withdraws, but Saavedra refuses. As a result, Lucho heads the "Yes" campaign to survive.

The historic campaign unfolds in 27 nights of television advertisements, with each side having 15 minutes per night to present its perspective. During that month, the "No" campaign, led by the majority of Chile's artistic community, proves successful with a series of entertaining and insightful presentations that have cross-demographic appeal. By contrast, the "Yes" campaign's advertising, with only dry economic data in its favor and few creative personnel on call, is criticized even by government officials as crude and heavy-handed.

Despite attempts by the government to interfere with the "No" campaign through further intimidation and blatant censorship, Saavedra and his team use those tactics to their advantage in their marketing, and public sympathy shifts to them. As the campaign heats up in the concluding days with international Hollywood celebrity endorsements and wildly popular street concert rallies of the "No" campaign, the "Yes" side is reduced to desperately mimicking the "No" ads.

On the day of the referendum, it initially appears that the "Yes" vote has the lead, but the final result decisively favors the "No" campaign. The ultimate confirmation comes when the troops surrounding the "No" headquarters withdraw as news arrives that the Chilean senior military command has forced Pinochet to concede. Following its triumph, Saavedra and Lucho resume their usual advertising activities in a new Chile.

The film concludes with historical footage of Pinochet handing over power to newly elected president Patricio Aylwin.



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 on 8 February 2013.[8]


International praise[edit]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 93% rating based on 132 reviews, and an average rating of 7.70/10. The website's critical consensus states, "No uses its history-driven storyline to offer a bit of smart, darkly funny perspective on modern democracy and human nature".[9] It also has a score of 81 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 36 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[10]

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."[11]

One of the unique features of the film was Larraín's decision to use ¾ inch Sony U-matic magnetic tape, which was widely used by television news in the 80s. The Hollywood Reporter argues that this decision probably lessened the film's chances "commercially and with Oscar voters."[12] 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."[13]

Local criticism[edit]

The film received mixed reviews in Chile.[14] 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."[15]

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.[16]


When screened at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival,[17][18] No won the Art Cinema Award,[19] the top prize in the Directors' Fortnight section.[20] In September 2012, it was selected as Chile's bid for the Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards.[21] In December 2012 it made the January shortlist and was nominated on 10 January 2013.[22][23] At the 2012 Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Bernal won the award for Best Actor.[24]

Award / Film Festival Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film Chile Nominated
Cannes Film Festival Art Cinema Award Pablo Larraín Won
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. 15 October 2012. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  2. ^ No at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "Oscars: Hollywood announces 85th Academy Award nominations". BBC News. 10 January 2013. Archived from the original on 10 January 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  4. ^ Feinberg, Scott (2 September 2012). "Telluride 2012: Gael Garcia Bernal Reminds Chileans to Just Say 'No' in Cannes Carryover". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 10 September 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Locarno Film Festival focuses on Chile in 2013". This is Chile. 18 October 2012. Archived from the original on 4 January 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  6. ^ "Crystal Fairy and Il Futuro fly flag for Chile at Sundance". This is Chile. 4 December 2012. Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  7. ^ "Chilean filmmakers gain warm reception at Toronto Film Festival". This is Chile. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  8. ^ "Launching Films". Film Distributors Association. Archived from the original on 6 August 2020. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  9. ^ "No (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Archived from the original on 3 October 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  10. ^ "No". Archived from the original on 14 June 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2020 – via
  11. ^ Felperin, Leslie (18 May 2012). "Review: 'No'". Variety. Archived from the original on 1 June 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  12. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 14 January 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  13. ^ Pinkerton, Nick (13 October 2012). "NYFF: Pablo Larrain's No and the Marketing of Freedom". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  14. ^ Rohter, Larry (8 February 2013). "Oscar-Nominated 'No' Stirring Debate in Chile". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 June 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  15. ^ Rohter, Larry (8 February 2013). "Oscar nominated 'No' stirring debate in Chile". the New York Times. Archived from the original on 17 March 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  16. ^ Fuentes, Claudio (17 August 2012). "NO: tres ideas para destruir la alegría". El Dinamo. Archived from the original on 26 February 2017. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  17. ^ Leffler, Rebecca (24 April 2012). "Cannes 2012: Michel Gondry's 'The We & The I' to Open Director's Fortnight". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 24 May 2019. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  18. ^ "2012 Selection". Directors' Fortnight. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  19. ^ Ford, Rebecca (25 May 2012). "Cannes 2012: 'No' Takes Top Prize at Directors' Fortnight". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 24 May 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  20. ^ "CICAE". Archived from the original on 18 September 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  21. ^ Mango, Agustin (24 September 2012). "Chile Sends 'No' to Foreign Oscar Race". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 29 October 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  22. ^ "9 Foreign Language Films Vie For Oscar". Oscars. Archived from the original on 1 October 2014. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  23. ^ "Chilean movie 'No' nominated in Oscars". Archived from the original on 23 January 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  24. ^ "2012 Awards". Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Archived from the original on 14 August 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2012.

External links[edit]