Sunday, March 24, 2013

"No": Marketing A Dictator's Defeat

"No," a film directed by Pablo Larraín, takes place in 1988 during the plebiscite in Chile to decide the fate of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Rene Saavedra (Gael García Bernal) is a young adman who, though relatively apolitical, reluctantly decides to work on the campaign to vote "No" to continued dictatorial rule. Renee dismisses ads depicting oppression and advocates appealing to more of the electorate with dancers, mimes, rainbows and a jingle, "Chile, happiness is coming!" Opposition veterans object to such frivolity as an insult to the many killed, tortured and disappeared, but Saavedra prevails.

We are shown a fictionalized treatment of the real "No" campaign, which in itself is fine. The film, however, could make it seem as if this ad campaign were solely responsible for turning the population against Pinochet, which accounts for some of the criticism it received from political organizers. At the same time, it aims for verisimilitude by being shot with vintage video cameras, producing a blurry effect that blends with actual documentary footage. The net result is a confusing narrative mix of distortion and reality. In addition, "No" gets bogged down in the production of the ads. We are, however, left with one indisputable point about modern political ads: they're no different from marketing campaigns aimed at selling any other commodity.

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