Tuesday, 16 April 2013


Rialto Distribution

Now Showing

Just as youth is wasted on the young, democracy sometimes appears to be wasted on the free. As we Australians prepare for a Federal election -- the choice between a conservative party with no policies and a governing left wing party that moves ever further to the right as it abandons ideals for lowest common denominator votes -- the seemingly trivial issues both parties and the media focus on seem to be lacking in any real substance or urgency.

How refreshing then -- and embarrassing for us -- is a film like No; director Pablo Lorrain's look at the 1988 Chilean plebiscite to determine whether or not dictator Augusto Pinochet would have his powers extended and his rule continued; a rule propped up by the C.I.A. and one of tyranny which saw thousands upon thousands of opponents "disappear".

Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a hot shot account manager at one of Santiago's leading advertising agencies; his pitches for clients' television commercials always focussing on youthful exuberance and an American-like freedom and confidence. So it is somewhat of a surprise -- or no surprise at all, perhaps -- that those in charge of the 'No' campaign in the upcoming vote want Rene to take charge of their message.

At first Rene simply advises the 'No' team, making helpful suggestions, but when his boss starts making thinly and not-so thinly veiled threats, the upstart digs in and decides to make the 'No' campaign his baby: he's no longer out to prove a point, he's in it to win it.

Shooting the film documentary style (using a camera and film stock of the time), Pablo Lorrain makes this political period drama both immediate and intimate. We're there in the thick of the campaigning, and we're on the streets when the Chilean people take action; we get to see Rene work his magic whilst also seeing his vulnerable side when at home with his son whom he raises on his own.

Other stylistic choices, such as having the sound drop out whenever we view political TV commercials, may confuse or annoy at first, but before too long your caught up in the campaign and hanging on the result.

I wish I could say the same about our own Federal election but that result seems inevitable and not one worth celebrating, whatever your political persuasion. Is it really democracy when it's a choice between the lesser of two evils? Sticking with the ineffectual devil you know or opting for the devil you can't abide?

No reminds us of the real importance of democracy. It's too bad that here in Australia, and many other Western democracies, that its implementation falls to the politicians rather than people. It's worth your vote.

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