A 2012 Chilean drama film directed by Pablo Larraín. The film is based on the unpublished play El Plebiscito, written by Antonio Skármeta. Mexican actor Gael García Bernal plays René, an in-demand advertising man working in Chile in the late 1980s. The historical moment the film captures is when advertising tactics came to be widely used in political campaigns. The campaign in question was the historic 1988 plebiscite of the Chilean citizenry over whether general Augusto Pinochet should have another 8-year term as President.
At the 85th Academy Awards the film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
At the Telluride Film Festival, the film was shown outdoors and was rained on. It was also screened at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. No played as a Spotlight selection at the Sundance Film Festival. Gael García Bernal attended the Toronto International Film Festival where No was screened.
The film was released in the UK by Network Releasing on 8 February 2013.
The film has a 92% score from the film critics’ site Rotten Tomatoes.
Writing in May 2012, Time Out New York critic David Fear called No “the closest thing to a masterpiece that I’ve seen so far here in Cannes”. Variety reviewer Leslie Felperin felt the film had the “potential to break out of the usual ghettos that keep Latin American cinema walled off from non-Hispanic territories. ….with the international success of Mad Men, marketing campaigners should think about capitalizing on viewers’ fascination everywhere with portraits of the advertising industry itself, engagingly scrutinized here with a delicious, Matthew Weiner-style eye for period detail.”
One of the unique features of the film was Larraín’s decision to use low definition, ¾ inch Sony U-matic magnetic tape, which was widely used by television news in Chile in the 80s. The Hollywood Reporter argues that this decision probably lessened the film’s chances “commercially and with Oscar voters.” The Village Voice reviewer commented that the film “allows Larrain’s new material to mesh quite seamlessly with c. 1988 footage of actual police crackdowns and pro-democracy assemblages, an accomplishment in cinematic verisimilitude situated anxiously at the halfway point between Medium Cool and Forrest Gump.”
The film received a mixed reception in Chile. Several commentators, including Genaro Arriagada, who directed the “No” campaign, accused the film of simplifying history and in particular of focusing exclusively on the television advertising campaign, ignoring the crucial role that a grassroots voter registration effort played in getting out the “No” vote. Larraín defended the film as art rather than documentary, saying that “a movie is not a testament. It’s just the way we looked at it.”
In another criticism, a Chilean political science professor asked if one should really celebrate the moment that political activism turned into marketing, rather than a discussion of principles.
When screened at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, No won the Art Cinema Award, the top prize in the Directors’ Fortnight section.
In September 2012, it was selected as Chile’s bid for the Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards. In December 2012 it made the January shortlist, and was nominated on January 10, 2013.
At the 2012 Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Bernal won the award for Best Actor.