This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 24th March 2013
Chile, 1988. Military dictator Augusto Pinochet takes the unusual step of allowing his citizens to vote in a referendum as to whether he should retain power or not. With the State supremely confident that people will vote “Si”, advertising executive René Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal) is brought in to lead the “No” campaign for the opposition. Using techniques usually reserved for soft drinks and blue jeans, Saavedra and his team create an imaginative message for their audience, and come under fire for their efforts.
The fascinating true-life conceit of this Oscar-nominated movie is almost as enthralling as watching the creatives devise the crucial 15-minute film every day in which to make their case.
Even more clever is that the whole movie is shot in the blanched-out video of the day – familiar to us now only from trips down TV’s memory lane. This interesting choice brings a documentary-like authenticity to the action, though it takes a while at first to adjust to taking it all seriously and not just for laughs.
Interposed with archive footage from the actual campaign, the story teaches much about political power in the recent past and how people will embrace innovative methods to attain freedom.