No (the movie)

I’ve just finished watching No, the movie, which came out in 2012 (you can see a trailer on Youtube).

It’s an interesting movie. It shows the contrast between the story that the democratic campaigners want to tell (of the suffering, the violence they’ve experienced during the dictatorship), and the approach of an ad-man who wants happy spots to sell a vote against dictatorship, with sunshine and smiling actors. 

I won’t spoil the ending – but I’ll say that it’s an interesting choice of subject matter (for context, it’s part of a trilogy on the dictatorship; so perhaps there’s a broader treatment in the other movies). But it felt a little sad to see a story that seemed to rest on two assumptions; one, that humans are so shallow that a TV advertisement with colours and bright smiles was the way to go, not a real story about what was wrong with Pinochet’s regime (particularly when they had a 15 minute slot). The second assumption was that given their audience is processing at a shallow level (or time-poor, or however else constrained), that the utilitarian approach is the right one. 

Don’t get me wrong; I think there are pretty plausible arguments for both of those assumptions, and on balance I might have reached those same conclusions. But to me that argument is far more interesting than what No shows, which largely centred on the mechanics of an ad campaign – politically charged, and interesting, but not compelling. 

And at the same time, for a director, the decision to focus on that story means excluding other ones – the stories of what happened under the regime, and what was done to victims (you can read more in some of the post-regime investigations). Again, I know nothing about Chile’s context, and history – and perhaps this is covered in some of the director’s other work.

But a decision to focus on a single story-teller over the period of 27 days in the context of a protest movement that’s lasted for years with years of suffering seems to elide some key issues about what’s involved in a broad social movement, and what brings about systematic and meaningful change. 

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