Movie review: No (2012)

I have mixed feelings about this movie. In terms of the broad points, the movie was factual. In 1988, there was a referendum to decide if General Pinochet should remain in office for another eight years. Both sides ran ad campaigns. But the details are off. And the focus on one sliver in the struggle to gain democracy in Chile—the TV ad campaign—misrepresents the struggle that led up to removing Pinochet from power.

Granted, the movie was technically based on an unpublished play that focused on the plebiscite. And it is a movie. It does not claim to be a documentary.

As a movie it was well done, but I felt that I was missing a lot by it focusing on the ad campaign—TV commercials full of jingles and happy people dancing. It seemed too simplistic. Was this the sole impetus for people voting against Pinochet? Or did other catalysts help drive the opposition vote?

And then it ended suddenly. Pretty much after the votes are counted, life returns to normal. Did it really happen that quickly? Did the heads of the military suddenly walk away from Pinochet? Did Pinochet really so easily acquiesce to the election outcome? Clearly, I need to go read up on Chilean history. The movie did not answer these questions for me, a Western with little knowledge of Chile.

Coming into this movie, I knew of General Pinochet, his torturous reign, his corruption. That things were not good for Chile in the ’70s and ’80s. That things did not end well for Pinochet. But that is the range of my knowledge of all things Chilean.

However, I need to step back and remember. This is a Chilean movie. Made for Chileans. To them the movie is in context. To them an examination into one sliver of the 1988 campaign works. For me, I wanted more.

And there were little things in the fictional drama that left me a bit baffled. Our hero, René who was instrumental in the ad campaign for the opposition, continued to work for the man who was instrumental in the ad campaign for Pinochet. Despite them knowing that the other had been working on the opposite side of the campaign. Despite the threats his boss uttered to him throughout the campaign.

It is a well-made movie, produced for a Chilean audience. As a non-Chilean, I felt that I was peering in from the outside, making sense of what I saw but realizing that there was so much more, implicitly known to Chileans, that I should be getting. I want more.


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