No (2012)




Director:     .

Starring:     Gael García Bernal (René Saavedra), Alfredo Castro (Lucho Guzmán), Luis Gnecco (José Tomás Urrutia), Néstor Cantillana (Fernando), Antonia Zegers (Verónica Carvajal), Marcial Tagle (Alberto Arancibia), Pascal Montero (Simón Saavedra), Jaime Vadell (Minister Fernández), Elsa Poblete (Carmen), Diego Muñoz (Carlos),  Roberto Farías (Marcelo), Sergio Hernández (Militar),  Manuela Oyarzún (Sandra), Paloma Moreno (Fran), César Caillet (Cliente).

second part of director Pablo Larrain's trilogy about Chile during the dictatorial reign of Augusto Pinochet about a civil servant transformed by the 1973 military coup


Spoiler Warning:

"In 1973, Chile's armed forces staged a coup against President Salvador Allende and General Augusto Pinochet took control of the government.  After 15 years of dictatorship, Pinochet faced increasing international pressure to legitimize his regime.  In July 1988, the government called a referendum.  The people would vote YES or NO to keep Pinochet in power for another eight years.  The election campaign would last 27 days with 15 minutes of TV advertising every day for YES and 15 minutes for NO."

Ad man René Saavedra speaks with his soft drink clients.  He is presenting a commercial for a Coca-Cola product, a drink called "Free".   One of the businessmen is very irritated by a mime being in the middle of the advertisement.  René gives the reasons why the advertisement is a good one.  He is backed up by his colleague.  A secretary comes in and interrupts the session by saying that José Tomás Urrutia is here now and he wants to speak with René.  So René excuses himself and leaves the session, saying that the clients can now look at the 30 seconds advertisement that has no mime in it. 

One of the clients says about the visitor:  "The communist?"  The advertising colleague says "yes". 

José tells René that he is working on the television campaign for the plebiscite for the No position.  René says he already knows, everyone knows, that José  is here to get him to lead the advertising campaign for the NO vote.  José explains:  "This is our chance to overthrow the dictatorship."  René is very skeptical of the whole idea, thinking that the vote will be fixed anyway.

René's colleague says to René:  "I didn't know that you were friends with that communist Urrutia."  René answers:  "No, Urrutia isn't a communist."  The colleague now asks if they will be working on the NO campaign?  René says he declined the offer.  His colleague now says:  "With your family background, I never should have hired you."

The boss keeps asking about the campaign saying it is financed by communist money.  René says that everybody in Chile is supporting the campaign.  And the Americans are also supporting the NO campaign,.  The boss says he doesn't believe that  because the Americans are the ones who financed the military coup in the first place.  René agrees that's true, but on the NO question, they have the support of the Americans. 

Lucho Guzmán comes late to a meeting on the Pinochet advertising program.  [Of course, none of the liberals/radicals know this.  Nor does René.]  Lucho says that the word "dictatorship" is a harsh word, and the NO campaign is going to be pointing that out over and over again in their campaign.  The Pincochet advertiser says he's not worried, because the NO campaign will have 17 different voices matching the 17 parties supporting the NO position.  The No campaign will be in chaos with so many different parties.  He adds that the Argentineans he talks to all say that they need and want a Pinochet.  The whole world needs a Pinochet.  But, they must take Pinochet out of his military uniform.  Instead they will ". . . compose an elegant, very Chilean anthem for the people to bravely sing to their general, dressed as a civilian."

René gets a jolt to his self-satisfied world when he goes to try to see his wife, a political prisoner, Verónica Carvajal, in court.  When the political prisoners are brought into the court room there is a little commotion and all hell breaks out with the police clubbing all the political prisoners.  Verónica was just standing there, but she too was beaten with the baton to her head.  René gets out of there before he gets clubbed with a baton. 

At home René and his son watch the government's YES campaign on the television.  A little later Verónica comes home.  They also have a nanny.  Verónica asks him if he is going to work for the NO campaign?  He indicates "yes" with his body language.  Verónica asks him what for?  René says:  "To win."  Verónica tells him straight out:  "You're going to validate Pinochet's fraud."  She calls him a "mercenary".  René doesn't react to that, but a little later when he goes to put their son down to sleep he comments:  "We're going to get rid of Pinochet."

The yet unapproved NO campaign advertisement shows the brutal attack on the capital, including scenes of dead citizens in the streets.  There are scenes of torture victims with the headline of 34,690 tortured citizens.  Then the headline is 200,000 exiled.  2,110 political executions.  1,248 disappeared detainees.  For free elections:  vote NO. 

René shows this advertisement to a whole group of people backing the NO campaign.  After the viewing , René expected to be criticized, but nobody criticizes him.  So Urrutia asks for some constructive criticism.  One man says that the dictatorship destroyed the country and it will continue to destroy Chile.  Another man says he fears that many of the supporters of the NO campaign just want to win the campaign and not really change Chile in a profound way.  A woman says she has no faith in the prospect of the NO campaign winning for she has no trust in the dictatorship whatsoever. 

René attends a smaller meeting on the ad campaign.  They talk about there being a lot of non-voters because they feel so hopeless that anything can be changed in Chile.  They have been so repressed by the dictatorship that they feel hopeless and powerless and won't vote.  They talk about needing a miracle and needing God and faith. 

An advertising man, Alberto Arancibia, that works with René, tells him:  "I don't want to lose any clients, and I don't want to get beat up either."  René replies:  "No one's going to find out."  He then introduces Alberto and José to each other.  José says he understands Alberto's concerns. 

The men talk about the problem of the non-voter.  They identify two groups, old ladies and young people, as most likely to be non-voters.  They decide to ask the nanny, who says she will vote YES, why she will vote that way.  She says she is okay and her boy is in college now and her daughter has work.  She also says that the issue of the dead and disappeared are things of the past.  "Now we have democracy ahead of us."

René says that they will have a real problem of the "democracy" claim by the YES people, because the dictators have claimed that word for themselves so much and so often.  René stresses that the campaign has to be upbeat, pushing the happiness theme.

At work there are many more meetings discussing the details of the campaign.   René gets mad at his boss, because now the boss wants to make René a partner.  "Shit, you're a rat, boss.  You're threatening me the same way that you're offering me . . . "  They are interrupted by a man who wants to greet them. Then they are interrupted by a pretty woman. 

Now René shows the commercial with the happy theme.  The men in the room criticize it for looking like a Coca-Cola commercial.   They say the campaign is not serious enough.  René says the campaign is offering something very serious.  He reminds the men that he too, Manuel Saavedra's son, was exiled. 
Another man gets up to say that the commercial is a masquerade, it is silent on what happened with the dictatorship.  His brother just disappeared and his friends were beheaded.  "This is a campaign to silence what has really happened."  The guy gets so mad that he walks out. 

René tells his boss Lucho the their symbol, a big NO, with a rainbow right next to and above it, is going to make them famous. 

Lucho Guzmán reports the symbol for the NO campaign to a government official, who interprets the rainbow as being associated with homosexuals. 

At night someone paints a saying on René's big front window:  "MARXIST SELLING OUT THE COUNTRY".  The nanny gets really angry and boldly goes out to confront the young men responsible for the painting of the words.  She asks them what are they doing here and adds that this is a decent neighborhood and they should leave.  A big pick-up truck with soldiers in the back drive over to the woman to tell the "old bitch" to go to sleep. 

The next day Alberto asks René if he can recognize any of the harassers?  René just says that he saw them clearly.  He then says:  "They know where we live, where we work, our schedules, they know everything."

The team begins making a new commercial.  One of the commercials presents many mothers who have lost their children because they were "disappeared".

The new slogan is:  "Chile!  Happiness is coming!"

The NO campaign comes up also with some hard hitting commercials.

The YES campaign has their own commercials, but many of the bigwigs don't like the commercials, saying they are just wasting their money.  Lucho says:  "We can't fight universal principles like happiness or that stupid campaign, a rainbow, with a film about fruit exports."   The main man for the commercials defends them, but the leader of the meeting says that from now on Lucho will be in charge of the commercials.  Lucho says:  "What we have to do is to work on one axis, who is capable of governing, and who isn't capable of governing?  And to do an emergency audit.  That we're going to fuck them up."

René and Verónica are having a tough time being with each other.  She comes over, but usually doesn't stay the night, even if René asks her to.  They kiss for a short while, but she cuts it off and then leaves the house. 

Lucho decides to start making fun of the NO campaign's commercials.  They say that they will present the No lies and then tell the YES truths.  René says they are not going to respond to these negative commercials.  NO member Fernando goes out to get in his car and go home.  But before he can even start his car up, two other cars start up.  Fernando returns to the house and says there's trouble outside. So everyone leaves at the same time, which overwhelms the government investigators by the sheer number of cars and bicycles that need to be followed. 

One of the NO commercials is censored and that causes a big backlash among the people.  "Because it seems like the government is afraid of us finding out the truth", says one lady on the street.

René gets a threatening phone call asking about his son.  So the next morning he drops his son off with his mother.  There he sees another man in the house, one that he did not know about.  No wonder Verónica doesn't stay overnight. 

René asks Lucho if he works for the YES campaign?  Lucho lies and says no, it's just a consultancy.  He then asks René if he likes the recent change in the YES campaign?  René says it's bad, pretty bad.  And, finally, Lucho is honest with René .  He says:  "We're going to fuck you up, man."

The NO campaign gets all the actors and actresses and the Yes campaign gets none except the dregs. 

The police arrive to break up a huge No rally.  The police capture René's wife and lover and are pretty rough on them.  René tries to interfere and gets socked in the mid-section.  He bends over in pain.  Now, he goes to his car. 

Lucho helps get Verónica released. 

The plebiscite is held.  The NO campaign wins!  They won with 57% percent of the vote.  The NO people are ecstatic.  They have ended the dictatorship by simply voting NO. 

Lucho and René stay together. 


Good movie about the Chilean plebiscite to vote yes for Pinochet or no for Pinochet.  It would make a pretty good feature for an advertising class, but because of that the movie did drag a bit.  Nevertheless, you do learn about the terrible things that happened in Chile (all backed by the USA) in the coup against Salvador Allende.  You hear the frightening statistics on the numbers of murdered and disappeared people, as well as the numbers of tortured people.  As an American, it makes me sick to think the USA backed this kind of behavior just to keep another Latin country down and out.  Gael García Bernal (as René Saavedra) is a great actor and again he gave an outstanding performance.  Alfredo Castro (as Lucho Guzmán) was also good.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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