Gael Garcia Bernal stars as a skateboarding Chilean ad executive in ‘NO,’ a grainy portrait of the political advertising efforts surrounding the 1989 referendum of Chile’s military dictator Augusto Pinochet. Bernal’s character Rene revolutionizes the ‘NO’ campaign by using upbeat tropes from commercial ads in the 15 minutes his team is allotted each night to sell their cause. Meanwhile, Rene’s agency boss uses shady tactics to lead Pinochet’s opposing promotional corps. The film was nominated for Best Foreign Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.
Compared to something like Argo, which looks and feels like a film made in 2012 about the 1970s, ‘NO’ seems more archival, more docu- than -drama. It’s shot with what must have been either a primitive camera or a highly advanced camera with a filter to make it look primitive, because it captures 1980s Chile in exquisite vintage. Commendable job by the cinematographer and production design team.
The personal story lines -- Rene’s relationship with his boss, his volatile ex-wife and his feathery son -- are ultimately subsumed by the political context, and because the atrocities of Pinochet are in the film’s rear view, characters allude to high stakes which unfamiliar (or younger) viewers might find difficult to internalize.
‘NO’ is adapted from an unpublished stage play, but seeing the ads themselves and the technical aspects of their production are the most unique and most essentially cinematic elements of the film. It’s perfect for those with a love-hate relationship with documentaries. Playing now at the Cedar Lee.