Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 04/26/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 04/26/2013 9:29 AM | Updates
In movies, the Chilean dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet has generally and accurately been portrayed as a brutal regime, in which dissidents could be exiled, tortured, murdered and "disappeared" by the state with chilling impunity.
Yet one can't help conclude the dictatorship was viewed more generously in the country itself. Under foreign pressure, Pinochet put his leadership to a vote in 1988 in a straight yes-no plebiscite. Backed by the wealthy and the business community, Pinochet damn near won.
Chilean director Pablo Larrain focuses on the battle behind the plebiscite with No, avoiding the backroom deals and compromises between the anti-Pinochet coalition and perversely emphasizing the actual ad campaigns mounted by both factions.
Gael Garcia Bernal plays hip young advertising exec René Saavedra, a man making a good living at an agency selling cola and microwave ovens to a new generation of Chileans, using MTV-era visuals. He begins every client pitch with an assertion that the people of modern Chile are ready for this sort of thing.
The plebiscite guarantees both sides of the debate will have 15 minutes of television airtime, and René is approached to create ads that will motivate the citizenry, cowed by Pinochet's ruthless power, to vote "No."
René protests that he is apolitical, despite his ex-wife Veronica (Antonia Zegers), a fiery activist routinely arrested by the police. We gather René may choose to keep his beliefs internalized to protect his young son.
In any case, René signs on as an adviser. His notions of sending a positive message ("Chile, happiness is coming!") rankle the old-school radicals who, given unprecedented freedom from state censorship, want to itemize Pinochet's history of human-rights violations.
But some of René's ideas -- like using a jingle instead of an earnest protest song -- take hold in the nightly broadcasts. His work is so successful, the Yes side drafts René's conservative boss Lucho (Alfredo Castro) to counter-attack.
Even more menacing, Pinochet-backed thugs and police attempt to intimidate the No side with acts of vandalism and sabotage, acts that seem to compel René to greater efforts, not so much to protect his young son, but to act in his best interests for the future of the country.
Larrain makes the dubious choice of filming the movie with Sony U-Matic video cameras of the period. This makes for a seamless blend when he inserts actual ads from both sides of the campaign. But it also renders much of the film blearily ugly.
But the overall work is pretty fascinating, especially in today's era of ever-more virulent attack ads.
The film's key scene may be one in which René and Lucho, in the heat of their propaganda battle, put their differences on hold to pitch a campaign for a soap opera.
Among myriad images of singing, dancing, rioting and atrocity, this scene may best exemplify the tense undercurrent of a country divided.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 26, 2013 D6
Updated on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 9:29 AM CDT: adds fact box
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Sundance First Look: Pearce, Smulders get rom com 'Results'
Worker dies on Taiwan film lot to be used for Scorsese movie
New on DVD/VOD
First Look: 'Dope' is fresh, funny and music-filled
For Sundance hits, theatrical still rules over VOD
'Ghostbusters' cast set with McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon, Jones
Prosecutor: Gregg Allman filmmaker never given immunity
Review: Something's missing from the deck in 'Wild Card'
'Selma' star supports Cumberbatch over "colored" comment
Review: Tragedies of 'Timbuktu' told with rare beauty
Review: A tired gimmick weakens thriller 'Project Almanac'
Diversity at Sundance doesn't carry over to Hollywood
Sundance Watch: Celebs talk fest, iPhone film premieres
Sundance Watch: 'Tangerine' shot entirely with iPhones
Sundance Quick Quote: Spike Lee discovers crowd funding
Sundance Watch: Redford brings film to his own festival
Private jets, mega yachts marketed at Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Quick Quote: Rashida Jones on porn, sex and women
Common, John Legend to perform 'Glory' at Academy Awards
Sundance Watch: 'Me and Earl' becomes breakout hit at fest
'Django Unchained' actress pleads not guilty to lewd conduct
Sundance Watch: Celebrities sound off on the fest
Review: 'Black or White' wrestles with race in custody drama
Adrian Grenier enjoys anonymity on empty slopes at Sundance
Audrey Tautou, Matthew Weiner among Berlin film fest jury
So it is written...
Death From Above doc screens at Cinematheque
Sundance Watch: Fans angle for selfies, Reynolds talks poker
Why Ryan Reynolds says he's a dangerous poker player
McCain gives thumbs up to 'American Sniper' movie
Sundance Watch: 'Cobain' premieres, women talk Hollywood
Emma Watson to star in live-action 'Beauty and the Beast'
Cumberbatch says sorry for calling black actors 'colored'
Birdman flies away with SAG Awards
Cobain doc brings mom, child together
'Birdman' tops SAG Awards, Redmayne upsets Keaton
First Look: Sundance doc pulls back curtain on Scientology
Sundance Quick Quote: Redford's thoughts on marketers
Courtney Love, Frances Bean appear together at Sundance