film review: "No," Directed by Pablo Larrain, 118 minutes

Saying NO to Fascism

The fascist regime that was established by force of arms in Chile on September 11,1973, found itself in an interesting position in 1988, according to this wonderful film. In response to terrific international pressure, the Pinochet regime decided to hold a plebiscite to allow the people to vote "si" to continue the general's rule or "no" to discontinue it. Of course, the regime carefully stacked the deck before allowing the game to begin. The "no" campaign would only be allowed 15 minutes of TV campaign time per day, while the rest of the broadcasts continued to be dominated by the fascists.

The movie invents a fictional character played by Gael Garcia Bernal. He is a wildly successful young advertising expert with his industry's built-in amorality. Does he really drink the soda pop he sells? Does he care, one way or the other, about liberty in his homeland? His estranged wife, an activist youth who gets arrested and beaten by fascists over and over, scorns him, his views, and his industry. His boss at the ad agency goes to work for the "si" campaign but doesn't fire him for taking the "no" side.

Almost everyone is going to love this movie, if not for its politics then at least for its style. It mixes grainy newsreel footage with modern scenes expertly. Every character, on both sides of the argument, is fascinating. The only film goers I can think of who might not like "No" are those who aren't crazy about central actor. His gorgeous young face, with ambiguous expression, is in close-up at least half of the movie!

What appealed most to my movie buddy and I was the lessons that might be learned. The adman decides , early on, that most of the population is already polarized between "si" and "no." Only the apathetic likely-non-voters are to be targeted by his campaign. We're facing a similar situation in the United States today in that apathy, not ideology, seems to be our biggest obstacle. Should we put forward a sober assessment of the bad situation we face, or should we make up happy jingles, snappy videos, and emotional appeals toward a happy future? You can guess what a lot of old-time political-minded activists would say, and you can guess what a modern successful adman would say, too. Both sides of that argument, the resulting campaign, and the outcome are beautifully dramatized in "NO."

It's a lesson and an inspiration!"

--Jim Lane