Starring Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, No is the movie submitted by Chile to the 2012 academy awards. The movie tells us about one moment in Chile history when dictator Pinochet organized a referendum trying to legitimize his government to the eyes of the world. However, against all odds, the political opposition manages to win the voting and that way democracy put an end to that nefarious period of Chilean history.
How did they managed to do that is the topic of the film in which the story is told through the main character, René Saavedra, an advertiser hired to organize the campaign of the No (no to Pinochet leading the country for another eight years) which gives its title to the film.
The film gives us the chance to get into one of the most important events in Chile contemporary history, but one that isn't very well known outside that country; I at least haven't heard about it until I saw the film. The first virtue about the film is that you don't need to know about this events to get into it, as long as you know Chile lived a long military dictatorship (which should be general knowledge) you won't have any problem getting into the plot.
No shows us the complications around the campaign, Saavedra only counts with 15 minutes each day to get his message to the people of Chile, and his works starts not with some commercials, but talking the opposition parties to agree to his idea of making some positive promos in order to help Chileans get over their fear of voting, instead of denouncing the crimes of the dictatorship now that they have a chance to do it. Besides that, all the government and media works for Pinochet, and they'll use everything in their possibilities to obstruct the opposition message.
No uses many archive images, maybe up to a quarter of the film is made from the original videos aired in the Chilean TV during the campaigns, this is very interesting since as foreigners we get to see what people in the country watched in their TV every night. The film does a great job combining this archive images with the work of the actors so at all time the film moves along quite well and it never feels like a documentary or a history lesson which could make some people bored; but it is still very interesting for anyone who (like me) loves history. Watching this archive images gives us some surprises, and while everything will undoubtedly say more to Chileans than to foreigners, you may still get some surprises, like discovering Hollywood actors like Chistopher Reeve, Richard Dreyfuss (in a good Spanish) or Jane Fonda giving support messages to the people of Chile.
This combination of archive videos and original film is made more effective by the cinematography. The director looked for a camera like the ones used and the end of the eighties to make his film, and he manages that all the film has the same definition which helps to blend it perfectly, also this gives the film a distinctive look that makes it visually different from any other current film.
The acting is good, with Gael García Bernal giving a good Chilean accent, without much dialog his characters evolves very well through the movie, I liked specially when he is working on other advertising besides the No campaign, he uses the same phrases while selling his job, but despite this remaining unchanged by the end of the film we notice how he earned a lot of respect and confidence with his winning No campaign.
One last good thing is that despite the fact that you know the ending from the first moment, the plot manages to give you some moments of tension, a proof that it has been very well developed.
Some things I didn't like is the sound, at some moments I had some difficulty hearing some dialogs, this technical fail is a shame. I also disliked some shots in which the sun is too bright obscuring everything else on screen, but this doesn't happen much.
At the end of the film you will be humming the catchy song of the campaign. Naturally this wasn't the only thing that forced Pinochet to leave the government and there is a lot more to learn about this moment of Chile history, but the campaign was important and the film offers a great introduction to the topic trough an original cinematographic work. Recommendable