Academy Awards: When 'No' gets a 'Yes!' in Chile(Read article summary)
Chile's film industry is excited about its first Oscar nomination for the controversial Pinochet-era film, 'No.'
When you click on the website of CinemaChile, the promoter of Chilean films around the world, you see a close-up of Mexican actor Gael GarcĂa Bernal looking over his shoulder, a huge rainbow blurred out in the background. No one familiar with Chilean film needs the tiny caption. Itâ€™s from the movie â€śNo,â€ť released in 2012, now representing Chile at the Academy Awards as the countryâ€™s first-ever Oscar nomination.
With the Oscar ceremony set for Sunday evening, Santiagoâ€™s small but thriving film world is preparing for a late night â€” the broadcast will start at 9 p.m. local time. And the habitual local pessimism is yielding to a spot of hope.
â€śWe celebrated in the office, we celebrated with the filmâ€™s team,â€ť says CinemaChile Executive Director Constanza Arena. Just having a film nominated, she says, felt â€ślike winning the soccer world championship."
The movie portrays the battle of advertising campaigns that drew to a close with Chileans voting to end the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The beautiful and talented GarcĂa BernalÂ plays RenĂ© Saavedra, the advertising executive whose optimistic messaging overcame decades of left-wing bitterness (Mr. Pinochet ran Chile from 1973 to 1990, killing thousands of political opponents and creating torture centers across the country) and fueled the victory of the â€śNoâ€ť option. â€śNo,â€ť as in no more dictatorship, and â€śNo,â€ť as in the name of the movie.
Some viewers have been less thrilled about what the movie skips over. There is barely a mention of the movements of students, guerrillas, and everyday people who forced Pinochet to accept a referendum on his continued rule, and then bravely went public with their support for the â€śNoâ€ť option. The film says the referendum was simply a result of â€śinternational pressure.â€ť
So donâ€™t look to â€śNoâ€ť for a definitive history of the transition from dictatorship to democracy.
Instead, look for a drama that shows how a few people overcame fears and took part in the creation of a freer country. And Chile is freer. This fundamentally anti-Pinochet film was shown for weeks in an attractive screening room under the presidential palace, even as former Pinochet advisers worked in their government offices upstairs.
Chile has had a film industry for more than a century, but as in most small countries, even a local blockbuster may never see popularity outside the country. Legendary local names Miguel Littin (who was nominated for Oscars for films produced outside Chile) and Patricio GuzmĂˇn donâ€™t even have head shots posted on IMDB.com, the go-to source for film information. With minimal state support, a domestic market with half the population of California, and a challenging dialect of Spanish, Chilean film has been isolated.
Isolation, while posing problems for filmmakers seeking distribution, may also add to the distinctive character of â€śNo.â€ťÂ The final scene shows Mr. Saavedra, after the victorious election campaign, moving on to his next advertising gig, promoting a superficial TV melodrama. Itâ€™s an accurate portrayal of how the political, commercial, and cultural model associated with Pinochet outlived the dictatorship itself. The ending adds a distinctively Chilean dose of irony to what might otherwise have been a Hollywood fairy tale.