Thursday, 2 October 2014
Picture this; a country whose populace is being asked to take part in a referendum to bring about greater independence and democracy. A country campaigned by two camps; the Yes camp (requesting they stay with the current formula) and the No camp (requesting they make a change) and the general pessimistic consensus that nothing can ever change, that the old order will remain.
I was rather amused that the 2012 Chilean factual film No, a tale of Yes and No campaigns, received its network television premiere on Channel 4 on the 9th September, just over a week before Scotland went to the polls for their independence referendum.
I can't help but think that was wholly intentional.
Topicality aside, let's put things into perspective; because whatever your stance on the United Kingdom of late, it would be extremely foolish to continue the parallel of our own country with that of Chile, a victimised nation ruled with a cruel iron fist which saw incredible human rights violations with 30,000 arrests, 3,200 'disappearances' and anywhere between 10,000 -30,000 executions.
The man responsible was the dictator General Pinochet.
In 1988, fifteen years after staging a US backed coup in 1973, Pinochet assented to a plebiscite, a referendum offering his much abused nation the opportunity to vote yes, and keep him in power, or no, thereby ensuring their freedom and happiness.
It is the notion of happiness that is leapt upon ad man Saavedra played brilliantly by Gael García Bernal. Given a free rein with the No campaign's 15 minutes of airtime, he sets about selling his fellow countrymen and woman the No vote in the manner of a a Coca Cola advert; catchy jingles, the bold primary colours of its rainbow motif and smiley happy optimistic people. It's a distinctly 20th century American culture he's asking the people of Chile to take as their democratic right which is ironic for two reasons; No was headed up by traditional socialist and communists desperately opposed to Pinochet's free market brutal fascist regime, a regime that was funded by the America his cultural references emulate. In a perverse way, America financed Pinochet's rise to power whilst the marketing strategies employed to sell its commodities were ultimately responsible in democratically voting him out.
The most striking thing about No, apart from its political true story obviously, is the way director Pablo Larraín shoots his period tale with a distinctive period look, not just in terms of set and wardrobe and real archive footage of each campaign, but in terms of cinematography too shot on a filter that gives the film stock a fitting runny coloured ghosting VHS quality that makes the film, much like the No campaign of the time, incredibly unique and fittingly successful.