There’s one thing that stands out about No — the acclaimed drama targeted at the toppling of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The entire movie was shot on vintage cameras, giving it a uniquely cheap and videotaped appearance.
“Ten years ago, if we had seen (the movie), we would’ve thought ‘oh my God, this is the worst looking film,’” laughed star Gael Garcia Bernal while promoting the Oscar-nominated drama (which opens March 15). “But nowadays, the look and feel and the format is nostalgic for us — it’s almost melancholic.”
Best known for his breakthrough role in Y Tu Mamá También, Bernal plays the advertising executive in charge of designing the “no” campaign in the pivotal 1988 referendum to oust Chile’s dubious despot. As such, the ad man successfully sells the politically-charged message with the surreal lightness of a chewing gum commercial.
“It was incredibly radical and unexpected and I think that’s part of how they won,” said Bernal about such an unusual character leading a political campaign.
“That is a strong surprise when people see this movie… it was done with no money at all, with everything against them and a very difficult task and challenge.”
As serious as the event was, No is actually quite funny. Filmmaker Pablo Larrain thoughtfully balances the drama by poking fun at the era — in particular the discovery of the microwave oven.
“How are you going to have a deconstructive piece (discussing) important issues without any self-criticism or sense of humour? It’s quite impossible,” explained Bernal.
“We see how we were in those days, what all those objects meant and how they were part of our lives … I’m sure in 10 years time, we’re going to see what we were doing now and its going to make us laugh.”
No’s real-life ad men
“They were risking a lot,” said Bernal. “They were dealing with very complicated and difficult issues where many people had different opinions about it, especially the politicians.”