Film review: No (2012)

NO (2012)


Director:  Pablo Larrain

Starring: Gael García Bernal


In 1988, Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, due to international pressure, is forced to call a plebiscite on his presidency. The country will vote YES or NO to Pinochet extending his rule for another eight years. Opposition leaders for the NO persuade a brash young advertising executive, Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal), to spearhead their campaign. Against all odds, with scant resources and under scrutiny by the despot’s minions, Saavedra and his team devise an audacious plan to win the election and set Chile free. (c) Sony Classics. Available at:

My Review:

“No” is an excellent film that is simultaneously funny and poignant. At the 85th Academy Awards the film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. It covers an era of Chilean history that is frequently overlooked.  If you are an American, this is likely a period of history that you have never been educated on – as it doesn’t exactly paint the most positive picture of the US government. In 1970 Salavador Allende was elected President of Chile. He was one of the first Marxist to become president of a Latin American country through free and open elections. This occurred in the midst of the Cold War, a period in which the United States actively sought to restrict and prevent socialism and communism around the world – a policy known as containment. Thus, in September 1973 the US government and the CIA helped orchestrate a coup d’état in Chile, in order to oust the socialist government of Allende.  While the US publicly condemned the coup, they privately provided material support to Pinochet and his military.  What would follow would be one of the darkest periods in Chilean and Latin American history.  Pinochet was a ruthless and brutal dictator, and he violently suppressed any opposition to his rule.

According to a wide number of reports and investigations between 1,200 and 3,200 people were killed, up to 80,000 people were interned and as many as 30,000 were tortured during the time Pinochet was in government.

This film does not necessarily directly address the most violent points of Pinochet’s rule, but focuses more on his demise and the revival of democracy in Chile.  It’s a film that captures the deep pain experienced by many Chileans as a result of Pinochet’s rule, and their desire to move forward as a nation and a people.  In many ways, Chile is still dealing with the pain of that era today.  The film also highlights the importance of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom from fear, democracy, and free and fair elections.  “No” is educational, entertaining, and most of all it discusses timeless and important issues.  Many people in countries around the world still don’t have basic freedoms, and while we should be happy for Chile and its progress over the last two decades – we can’t forget that the fight isn’t over.

By John Haltiwanger


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