No (Pablo Larrain, 2012): Chile/France/USA

Reviewed by Kimberly Howard .  Viewed at The Lobero Theatre,  Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2013

In the third of his Pinochet Trilogy, director Pablo Lorraine masterfully creates an inspiring account of the victory achieved when Chilean Dictator, General Augusto Pinochet challenged a campaign referendum to an opposing advertising slogan simply entitled “No.” The victory overturned General Pinochet’s dictatorship, and provided a
“Red Sea” parting for the people of Chile which transitioned them from years of oppression and hopeless thinking to the “happiness is coming and here to stay” frame of reference.

Elected as the advertising campaign manager and creative force to such a weighty challenge, Gael Garcia Bernal brings an amazing, innovative effort to the content of their campaign advertisement which proves the effects can and will be positive even when running up against the tallest of Giants. Naive as it may seem, the display of hopeful events of the way life can be lived accompanied with a cheery jingle exclaiming “Chile, Happiness is Coming!” was the final selection to run against the Pinochet campaign.

The storyline was so cleverly written, it sucks the viewer in to forgetting about the real reason for the advertising campaign since it offers the feel and flow of a usual marketing routine. During one of their meetings, once the No Ad was run, a comment from one team member describes just how two worlds of this story are being told. The advertising world with its appetite for competition rings loud and clear when one man comments, “Geesh, it’s not a coca-cola commercial!”

That version won out against a previous rendition which shows the atrocities inflicted upon the citizens of Chile during Pinochet’s continuing Dictatorship. Building up to the final Election Day, the film adds to the overall tension with sporadic raids from the Pinochet Government which shows the real life seriousness and depravity of Chile. Shown as a family man, Garcia’s character does everything he can to protect his family from being separated. Although, estranged from his son’s mother, the two share a mutual desire to keep their child safe and slowly redevelop their relationship over the course of this life changing campaign.

As tension builds up to the Election Day, the director does a fabulous job of “confusing” the audience- I speak for myself in saying this– since the lights go out during the tallying of the votes, it made me feel like it was rigged somehow and that Pinochet ultimately won. I could not have been more wrong. The way the movie ends with the crowds jeering and celebrating Chile’s long awaited victory seals my above description of the two worlds in the story. This movie is not just about a simple campaign ad to overtake an evil dictator, but it rests on the individual’s conviction to really believe and hope for the better, and if not then are you just going thought the motions? The very last take in this movie is Garcia’s character carrying his son out from amidst the jubilee. As the son clings to him, Garcia’s facial expression leaves the viewer contemplating just how much he believed in the possibility of victory, or was he too just lost in the fight?

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