(Pablo Larraín, 2012)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: An important slice of Chile's political history is given a hugely entertaining transfer to film in 'No'. Well deserved of its Oscar nomination.
One of the great things about the Hollywood rat race surrounding the Oscars is that the short films, documentaries and foreign language entries get a real boost that they never would've seen before, showcasing some real gems. Pablo Larraín's 'No', which is up for Best Foreign Language Film, is such a discovery.
'No' retells a very important part of Chile's history: it's 1988 and dictator Pinochet has been in power for 16 years. International pressure has forced him to at least stage a national plebiscite allowing the people to vote 'YES' to another eight year office term or 'NO' to get him out of power. But the playing field wasn't exactly level. The 'YES' party could campaign on TV 24/7 while the 'NO' party was restricted to daily 15 minute slots late at night. Their campaign really needed to connect, and fast.
The issue wasn't so much what the people wanted but how to get the message across that it was safe to vote and that the alternative to Pincohet is a brighter future. Enter advertising exec René Saavedra (a sublime Gael García Bernal) who is more used to flogging soft drinks and microwaves with glamour and escapism. He's the brainchild behind a plan to campaign with happiness, humour and a positive attitude, drastically moving away from the usual stock footage of massacres and fearful statistics. René Saavedra is selling something. It just happens to be democracy and freedom from dictatorship.
Pablo Larraín's film injects so much life into his film and brims with unexpected laughs. His narrative doesn't stress on how dangerous it was for the 'No' campaigners when he can get us to enjoy the company of the characters so much that if one was to be eliminated you'd be shocked.
Even more engaging than that is the style in which it is shot: it looks like it's been filmed on videotape fitting in perfectly with what television news crews used during the time period. This works twofold in that it feels more realistic and also because Larraín can seamlessly slot in stock footage and actual campaign material without any noticeable dips in quality.
This is brave, rewarding viewing with a clear history lesson operating side by side with the pitch perfect dramatics. It's also a fascinating insight into how politics and marketing have since become so unashamedly entwined. 'No' is fully deserving of its Oscar nomination and gets my recommendation.
Watch the trailer for 'NO' here at Cinemas Online
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