“NO” is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and is worth seeing for it’s history lesson into Chile’s political turn of events that arguably set the country free in 1988 from the dictatorship of Pinochet. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, the film was the final part of a trilogy by director Pablo Larrain. Successfully shot using a 1983 U-matic video camera by cinematographer, Sergio Armstrong, the film is made to look very authentic especially when it pairs real life news footage from 1988. Despite the intriguing accounts that lead to the known outcome of Pinochet’s Presidency, which was NO, ultimately having the dictator step down, the film could have easily been trimmed from it’s 110 minute length to a mere 80 or 90 maximum.
Based on a play, “The Referendum” by Antonio Skarmeta, the story recounts the events of a plebiscite on the Chilean military dictator, Augusto Pinochet in 1988. The country will vote YES or NO to Pinochet extending his rule for another eight years. Opposition leader for the NO persuade a young successful advertising executive, Rene Saavedra (Garcia) to spearhead the campaign. Each side of the campaign is allowed 15-minutes of airtime on television, each night for 26 nights, to voice their side. Saavedra utilizes his advertising expertise for successful product campaigns to win over the people of Chile and ultimately vote, NO.
Garcia is well cast as Saavedra who portrays a non-politico type who has plenty of emotion, yet ultimately commits to leading his country to freedom. The film benefits from our hero as an average civilian stepping up to the plate for the good of his country. However, with an overly redundant emphasis on the tedious details of the plan and implementation of the campaign, the film feels like it’s walking the audience through the entirety of the 26-day campaign. It’s easy to see how this film was originally a play as often the translation from play to film is not successful, and too much emphasis on every detail becomes monotonous. Perhaps greater emphasis could have explained Pinochet’s 15 year regime which was characterized by it’s lack of human rights, murders, imprisonments, exiles and those who simply disappeared. A better job was done from the play “Farragut North” into the film, “Ides of March” with George Clooney and Ryan Gosling, which also recounted the events leading of to a campaign. Ultimately, “NO” should be approached more like a documentary for it’s important history lesson of Chile, but may actually receive a NO vote for Best Foreign Film.
“NO” opens in L.A. and NY on February 15th.