Keep an Eye Open for Chilean Film “No”

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Jane Fonda, Christopher Reeves and Richard Dreyfuss all sent messages to the Chilean public during the lead up to the 1988 vote that would ultimately end the Pinochet dictatorship. I had no idea. Mr. Dreyfuss impressed me the most because his message was delivered in Spanish. It was after all, an edited video recording. Not so hard to translate and practice speaking, especially if one is a professional actor.

I found this out after watching “No”, a movie (dramatized non-fiction made to look like a VHS tape filmed in the ’80’s) released in late May (Director – Pablo Larraín, Screenplay – Pedro Peirano) about the political advertising campaign held by those promoting the removal of Pinochet. After years of dictatorship, Pinochet began to succumb to international pressure and offered a plebiscite asking the people if they wanted eight more years of him. The “Sí” and “No” sides each got to have 15 minutes of free time to air what they wished for a period of 27 days leading up to the vote. It was the first time in over 15 years that any opinion other than a state-sanctioned one was allowed to be expressed on television. Most people expected that the vote was rigged and few expected Pinochet to lose. The film primarily documents the progression of the No campaign, including the death threats faced by its directors. Some people wanted them to use hard-hitting statistics showing the reality of deaths, torture, detentions and political exiles, but ultimately the campaigners presented their information in a more lighthearted way with song, dance and humor, stressing Chile’s future. It seems they didn’t want to continue to use fear as a tactic of control. The Yes side couldn’t get any artists to work for it – they were all united on the other end of the political spectrum – and presented some very pathetic attempts at humor, some of them macabre and much of it quite snobby. My Chilean counterpart seated next to me in the theater expressed sadness and remembrance at the clip of the then non-elected “president” saying that he hadn’t done anything wrong that he could recall, but sorry if in fact he had pulled some shit. Loose translation there. I want to tell you the end, but I won’t.

Aside from learning more about a very specific slice of history and some fun 80’s style, this film is a great way to pick up a bit of Chilean slang. After it’s success at Cannes (winner 2012 “Directors Fortnight” and “Art Cinema Award”) , Sony Pictures Classic purchased North American rights to the film. Here is an interview in English with the director Pablo Larraín and the Mexican principal actor Gael García Bernal.

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