Apr 13, 2013

An instructive look inside very rough politics.


Grade: B+

Director: Pablo Larrain (Post Mortem)

Screenplay: Larrain from Antonio Skarmeta play

Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries), Alfredo Castro (Tony Manero)

Rating: R

Runtime: 118 min.

by John DeSando

“Faith is what will change Chile.” Saavedra (Gail Garcia Bernal)

1988 was not a good year for August Pinochet, the dictator of Chile: after 16 years, he agrees to a referendum that simplified the  topic by having the electorate vote either “Yes” or “No” for his rule. One of the reasons he lost, notwithstanding the number of murdered or vanished enemies, was adman Renee Saavedra (Bernal), the brains behind the commercial for soft drink “Free,” featuring mimes and rock musicians among other images.

While this docudrama gives an effective perspective on the fall of a tyrant, it also shows the successful inside workings of an ad firm, which seemed not to have a chance given the perception that Pinochet had a lock on the election process. Not so. It’s instructive to see how much Saavedra’s belief in selling the upbeat emotion of the soda makes a difference in the final outcome, and that good does sometime overcome evil.

One of the more successful aspects of the film is its use of vintage video cameras, which allows the director to smoothly incorporate original TV commercials and news footage. In other words, No is an enjoyable thrust back into history, as good a look at the underside of Latino politics and propaganda as you will ever see.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel. Contact him at