No is based on fact but it’s still a fictional account of history. Pressured by international allies, Pinochet agrees to put his continued reign up for vote – ‘Yes’, for him to continue for another 8 years. ‘No’, for democratic elections. Campaign crews are formed and the rules are that each side has 15 minutes of air time nightly until the vote to make their case.
The Yes team figures after decades of intimidation, kidnapping and torture that the people will vote for them. The implicit ‘OR ELSE’ reigning. The No team tries a different and unexpected tactic by hiring a young account executive who treats the campaign like any other. He objectively analyzes his market then tailors the strategy to that market. His approach – focus on the positive. He creates a campaign based on freedom and prosperity with a democratically chosen leader. The TV spots are filled with upbeat music, happy people and generally have an MTV video from the 80’s feel. When the No campaign starts to gain traction with voters the Yes teams reverts back to their old standbys; harassing, threatening, etc. While its a matter of history which side won, its a very suspenseful journey.
The No team leader is played to the hilt by Gael Garcia Bernal. In initial stages he focuses on his goal, suppressing the enormity of what he could accomplish which Bernal emotes through academic almost naive reactions and expressions. As Yes team cranks up the heat, Bernal adopts a dear-in-headlights perspective as the reality of what he’s trying to accomplish and the tangible repercussions start to materialize. I haven’t seen Bernal so convincing since his roles in Bad Education and Amores Perros.
Production choices are excellent. Obviously they were going for the look and feel of a 80’s college documentary made with 80’s technology: the 1-1.4 aspect ratio. overexposed frames, sepia and gold tone overlays, ghost images, tight and off centered framing of the actors. The video inserts of actual footage from the era were a nice touch. While made in 2011 the production approach gives the viewer a stealthy, time-warped seat to watch the No team remove Pinochet from power. Just in case you were not in Chile during the era.
In the not so fictional world, Pinochet died in 2006 with some 300 criminal charges still pending against him. His widow and all 5 of his children were arrested in 2007 for tax evasion, falsifying passports and trying to illegally transfer some $30 million dollars amassed during Pinochet’s rule to foreign banks under false names.