DRAMA; 1hr 58min (Spanish with subtitles)
STARRING: Gael García Bernal, Antonia Zegers
Mission improbable: García Bernal
In 1988, after a 15-year dictatorship, Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet bowed to international pressure and authorised a referendum. In a 27-day Yes and No ad campaign, the public were urged to make up their minds whether to keep him in office for another eight years. Working with actors and archival footage, director Pablo Larraín reconstructs the engine of the seemingly impossible No campaign: how, in a supremely repressed and impoverished country with an ingrained fear of socialism, do you sell the concept of freedom?
As fictional TV ad man René Saavedra (García Bernal, all business) succeeds in doing that very thing, Larraín’s approach is loosey-goosey, with a hand-held, impromptu feel. His intent is anything but, however: no one in this deadly serious cast is taking their mission to end the régime lightly. Points of view are fiercely debated. Insults are hurled. Creative egos clash. Intimidatory tactics are employed. In a culture where violence is both context and subtext, neither the campaign nor Larraín’s reliving of it are fodder for the politically faint-hearted.