Rating: The film has weaknesses, but don’t we all? Gael Garcia Bernal will again remind you of why his prior films like Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) and The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) were so sensational.
*In Spanish with English subtitles
While No was nominated for an Oscar last year in the Best Foreign Film category, it is a movie that needs to be seen in this country. Focusing on the 1988 plebiscite in Chile which was to determine the fate of General Pinochet, their longstanding dictator, it serves as an uncomfortable mirror into Washington in 2013.
From the start, Pinochet was a gift to the Chilean people from the United States government that kept on giving. It cannot be overlooked that Secretary of State Kissinger and the American CIA played a major role in overthrowing President Allende in 1973. Pinochet was installed in power, and thousands of Chileans proceeded to disappear over the next decade under his abusive leadership.
Pinochet’s excesses finally led a galvanized world community to demand a “Si” or “No” vote by the Chilean electorate to decide if Pinochet stayed in power. The process allowed both parties 15 minutes on television every day during the 27 days before the election to argue their cause. As crazy as it sounds, Gael Garcia Bernal plays an ad executive who helps the No campaign gain traction by emphasizing seemingly simplistic concepts of hope, fun and happiness. At that moment the movie captures the human heart.
No is a powerful historical film that has some cinematic weaknesses. As always, Mr. Bernal disappears into his character as he brings it to life, but Director Pablo Larraín’s concentration on his personal life tends to drone on a bit too much. In particular, while he has custody of his 8-year old son following a prior divorce, he tends to repeatedly risk putting the lad in harm’s way for no apparent reason.
However, despite the fact that the film occasionally staggers, Mr. Bernal quickly allows it to regain traction. The only thing really missing was an understanding of why Bernal and the boy’s mother got divorced in the first place. They were both dedicated to the same cause, something that is repeatedly seen from the fact that she is brutally beaten by the police at various No rallies, but Bernal’s pursuit of hope and happiness is not extended to his own life.
But what is truly chilling about the film is its focus on Pinochet’s campaign in pursuit of a “Yes” vote. Careful to not use the phrase “everyone”, they actively attempted to mislead the Chilean people by saying that the private sector under Pinochet would see that “anyone” could become wealthy. They further sought to exploit the opposition by claiming that they simply sought a larger government to provide handouts to the poor who were simply too lazy to work. Sound familiar?
What is going on in the United States today is not that different than what was happening in Chile in 1988. Millions of Americans are unemployed, yet were supposed to trust the private sector to right the ship. We don’t care that the infamous Sequester cut funds for U.S. Attorneys, Federal Public Defenders and Head Start programs, but God forbid if we should let the comfortable people in our society have to wait a few extra minutes in an airport.
We’ll suspend the protections of the Fifth Amendment to aggressively question a bombing suspect for his role in killing three people during the Boston Marathon, but we can’t take a similar role when it comes to the Second Amendment though thousands of people are being brutally killed around this country every year. We foolishly invade Iraq on false information that costs this country billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money, yet we won’t spend that same amount in this country where we could help restore our infrastructure while employing vast numbers of Americans.
We are told to say “No” to tax increases unless, of course, you want to finance luxury boxes at Lucas Oil Stadium here in Indianapolis. While pious Christian politicians in Washington attack food stamps and other programs designed to help the poor, they conveniently forget Jesus Christ’s words, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”;
No is a film on how the people of Chile had the strength to save their own government. In the process, they saved their own country. There is a lesson to be learned here if we intend on doing the same thing.