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DVD Review: No

June 25, 2013

No DVD CoverNo – A Sony Pictures Classics’ Release

DVD Release Date: June 25th, 2013

Rated 14A for coarse language and disturbing content

Running time: 118 minutes

Pablo Larraín (dir.)

Pedro Peirano (screenplay)

Based on the play Referendum by Antonio Skármeta

Carlos Cabezas (music)

Gael García Bernal as René Saavedra

Alfredo Castro as Lucho Guzmán

Luis Gnecco as José Tomás Urrutia

Antonia Zegers as Verónica Carvajal

Our reviews below:


No DVD Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

Back in 1988, the Chilean government announced a referendum that would potentially overthrow the presidency of Augusto Pinochet, with a simple vote from the people of either YES or NO.  Directed by Pablo Larraín, No tells the true story of René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal), an ad executive working on the revolutionary campaign against the government.  Tasked with producing short films to show during their fifteen minutes of uncensored screen time each night, he proved that sometimes entertainment can be a powerful way to spread an important message.

Although the events of No happened exactly 25 years ago, the true story behind the screenplay is one that still feels relevant and is absolutely worth our attention.  With a stylish retro look and strong leading work from Gael García Bernal, this is an interesting and even entertaining look at how marketing can become a powerful form of activism in turbulent political times.  Picking up an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, No is well worth seeking out.

The DVD includes commentary with Pablo Larraín and Gael García Bernal as well as a Q&A with the lead actor.


No DVD Review By Erin V.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Based on a true story, No takes place in 1988 in Chile, where due to pressure from other governments, a plebiscite (referendum type vote) is called to put the following question to all Chilean citizens: should military dictator Augusto Pinochet be allowed to continue his presidency for another eight years, YES or NO.

A stipulation of the plebiscite, also from pressure of outside governments, is that the TV stations (normally controlled at that time by Pinochet and horribly censored) allow each side 15 minutes to present why you should vote in their direction.  The YES campaign has a huge budget as Pinochet’s team churn out their 15 minutes with seeming ease, while the NO team has to scramble to figure out what to do with theirs.

The opposition leaders approach a young advertising director, René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal) to figure out what to do.  He takes a bold approach to use the 15 minutes to make a program actually worth watching, with music, humour, and a catchy jingle of “Chile, Happiness is Coming!”  While some figure he should be using the time to present news footage formally not allowed to be aired, showing riots and violence by the military against the citizens, he realizes that the majority of the program can’t be as negative as the word “NO” itself, since you want voters to feel a sense of hope when going to the ballot box.

The film is a fascinating look at how the right advertising approach can help sell a concept – the way that this campaign was run is a fascinating case study of both history, as well as the use of commercials themselves.  No is filmed on old ’80s tapes to match the real footage sometimes incorporated in, and while unconventional for a movie you get used to the style and it fits quite well.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, No is a film definitely worth checking out.


No DVD Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

No tells a true story of the power of advertising.  In 1988, Chile held a referendum on whether dictator Augusto Pinochet would stay another eight years, or get booted out so the country could be free.  When the NO side campaigners (those who want Pinochet gone) need an advertiser, they call on ad creator René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal).

While his method of using positive, happy images in his NO side ad is questioned by his colleagues for avoiding much of the tragedy and mayhem created by Pinochet, Saavedra strongly believes that hope, as opposed to fear, is the way to make a change.  He has a young son at home, and wants his family to live in a country without fear and oppression.

The YES campaign, on the other hand, is based entirely on fear.  The YES campaigners want people to feel dependant on Pinochet, pretending that citizens would become poor without the dictator.  After all, they don’t have to say people will be rich with the current president, they just suggest they could be.  No is an inspiring true story about the power of hope.  Well written, acted and presented, this is a fascinating movie that should resonate with audiences everywhere.


No DVD Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

A well executed ad campaign can make or break a product.  It can even bring down a government.  No tells the true story of how an advertising campaign led by ad executive René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal) would decide the fate of Chilean President Augusto Pinochet in 1988.

When forced to call a plebiscite on his presidency, President Pinochet is so confidant voters will vote YES, allowing him to remain in position for eight more years, that he doesn’t take too seriously the NO campaign that hits the airwaves.  After all, the NO marketing ads are upbeat and simplistic in tone, as opposed to the YES ads that remind citizens how unstable things will be if he is forced out.

Watching the NO movement grow from an ad concept to a political movement is fascinating.  René Saavedra starts out with the campaign just being another job, without him feeling any real support for one side or another.  However, as he experiences pressure from his boss Lucho Guzmán (Alfredo Castro) – who is a YES supporter – René has his house vandalized and his young son threatened, and witnesses his estranged wife Veronica (Antonia Zegers) get beaten by police.  He starts to change and finally understands what the “No” campaign stands for.

No deserved its 2012 Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.  The acting is excellent and the story well told.  Anyone who has an interest in politics and marketing will want to see No.  This is an engaging and intelligent film.


No DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

No was the voting option in a 1988 plebiscite that would allow free elections in Chile. A vote of Sí would enable eight more years of the dictatorship of General Gustavo Pinochet who in 1973 had deposed the socialist president Salvador Allende. The plebiscite was meant to placate growing international opposition to the regime which, given its control of the media, intimidation of any opposition, and vote rigging expected to win easily. Over the 27 day campaign, each side, first No then Sí, would be given a daily 15 minute block of TV time.

The film opens with a pitch for a soft drink spot by the young advertising executive Rene Saavedra (Gael García Bernal) whose own father had been an early casualty of the coup. He is approached to act as a “consultant” for the No campaign, while his boss Lucho Guzmán (Alfredo Castro) has the same role for the Sí side. The opposition not only had a very limited budget; as in Syria at present it was split among a number of competing factions. Rather than concentrating on the brutal past, Saavedra proposed a positive campaign with a rainbow logo including the colours of the major parties and a slogan and jingle that promised a happy future for the majority of the population that had not shared in the apparent prosperity of the current regime.

The film works on several levels, mainly as a political thriller since as support for the No campaign grows, intimidation from the government escalates along with it. It is moreover an entertaining study in successful marketing of political dissidence. The human aspects of the story are also handled with sensitivity as the campaign puts stress on Saavedra and his family, while his relationship with Guzmán remains cordial and professional. Authenticity is enhanced by filming on 3/4″ videotape with a 4/3 aspect ratio to match the commercial and archival footage used and where possible the real people involved play themselves.


Consensus: Directed by Pablo Larraín and carried by a strong performance from Gael García Bernal, No is an entertaining film that tells the fascinating true story of the marketing campaign that sparked political change in Chile.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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