22 08 2013

No PosterNo” has the look of the VHS tapes that I watched in high school Spanish, a campy educational telenovela called “Destinos.”  Pablo Larrain’s film is definitely informative and enlightening, but it’s meant to be taken far more seriously than any corny classroom staple.  His gripping political procedural finds beauty in its unseemly U-matic aesthetic, giving “No” a documentary-style feel of veracity and allowing us to get all the more invested in the outcome.

And I was already on board with the film’s subject, a display of how the language of public relations and advertising (a potential career path for me) can be used to save the world for democracy.  In the 1988 Chilean plebiscite, voters were offered a simple referendum as to whether they wanted to keep dictator Augusto Pinochet in power.  Each side received 15 minutes to promote their cause.

At a disadvantage since they had to change the established order, the “no” campaign brought on a creative mind from outside the political sphere, René Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal).  A successful advertiser that’s every bit as eccentric as the Mark Zuckerberg of “The Social Network,” Saavedra brings the language of his industry to the table and changes the game.  They are no longer selling a vote against the atrocities and crimes of Pinochet; they are selling a vote for happiness and a better life under a new regime.

While it’s now commonplace to see PR trump the issues in American politics (usually not for the better), Larrain takes a rather non-judgmental stance on Saavedra’s revolutionary “no” campaign.  It’s fascinating to watch the events unfold from a distance, although there were times I wished “No” delved more into the psyche of Bernal’s Saavedra.  As a result, it’s not exactly the most rousing political drama – but it’s definitely one to make you think about the way in which modern elections are conducted.  B+3stars