Friday, August 2, 2013

"No" (2012)

Pablo Larrain’s 2012 Oscar nominated recounting of the 1988 referendum was a film that I was anticipating for a year before it was available. However, that was a highly personal anticipation. Normally I would not have been drawn to this sort of film, and I doubt it would have generated much buzz for most audiences. Having lived through the events depicted, I wanted to see if it caught the moment in time, and if so, to indulge in some intense recollections.

Be it a positive or a negative quality, it did indeed capture the moment. It uses a lot of old footage from the time, and filmed its new material on old equipment with antiquated stock to match that archival footage. All of that serves to deliver something that looks rather bad by today’s standards, but it does take one back to the sort of stuff we were used to looking at on TV in that day.

In a similar “positive and negative” fashion, the message of this film is encouraging and depressing at the same time. It is exciting to see a people stand up for themselves and do the right thing. Pinochet’s regime needed to go, and it did not feel like an easy of safe thing for the people to vote how they felt. At the same time it was a scary moment in history. As bad as things were, there was no guarantee that things would get better in the chaos that could have followed. Where the film’s message is not so encouraging, however, is in the way this huge moment in history was accomplished.

Be it accurate or not, this film presents the idea that the results of the 1988 referendum were less about people doing what they thought was best and more about a clever marketing campaign. Could this moment in time have done more than change the fate of Chile? Was this when politics in the west ceased to be about right and wrong—about ideas with merit or not—and became all about a sales pitch? Whether this is where that began or not, it is the ways things have gone.

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