by Jaime Grijalba.
This is a reprint of a review done at my blog Overlook’s Corridor back in December 2012, since this movie was still playing at that time in cinemas in Chile. Right now is having a revival at chilean theaters, and it’s also getting released in select screens in the US, as well as the UK, and it’s nominated for best foreign film at the Oscars. So, I couldn’t have a better timing. The review is revised and expanded for this ocassion. Anyway, no matter what I say here, I recommend it fully to anyone who has it available this week or in the coming weeks.
(Chile, USA, Mexico 2012 115m)
p Pablo Cruz, Daniel Marc Dreifuss, Gael García Bernal, Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín, Diego Luna d Pablo Larraín w Pedro Peirano, Antonio Skarmeta c Sergio Armstrong ed Andrea Chignoli, Catalina Marín Duarte
a Gael García Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers, Marcial Tagle, Alejandro Goic, Diego Muñoz, Luis Gnecco, Jaime Vadell, Néstor Cantillana, Manuela Oyarzún, Sergio Hernández, Claudia Cabezas, Pascal Montero
It’s one of the most praised films of last year made in Chile, participating in many film festivals from around the world and gaining critical acclaim from most critics and viewers from accross the board. Ever since the film premiered it has been received with certain reactions, because it’s so connected to the recent history of Chile and specially the consequences of the act portrayed are more than ever present and discussed by politicians and analysts in general. And so, quivering with fear, I approached the movie theatre accompanied by both of my parents that lived the process of the election where they chose if they wanted the murderer and dictator Augusto Pinochet to stay in power for another 8 years (could you imagine? 25 possible years with that guy at the head of the nation? what kind of country would that be?) in a simple choice between “Yes” and “No”. A few years back, there was another election regarding the state of Pinochet’s government, but that election has been put to shame by history since it was so obviously rigged and no propaganda for the “No” decision was allowed, since it was considered a choice that only communists and terrorists that didn’t want to see Chile grow would choose, so even the people who were in charge of the election comitee and the booths voiced out that you had to vote “Yes” (this was a story from my mom, her first voting chance, when she was over 20 years old, was in that plebiscite, and she was coarced to vote “Yes”, she did, but because she was a bit stupid back then, she also recons that).
But this time it was a different plebiscite, for the first time since the start of the dictatorship all the way back in 1973 until the date of the election (1988), there was no space for dissent or any kind of opposition, as it was quickly repressed and deemed marxist/communist/terrorist, sometimes ending in killings and desapparitions by the military under the direct order of their superiors… yes, it was a sad age to be a Chilean, and I’m proud that my parents were able to survive it even if their opposition to the government almost made them victims themselves of the different prejudices and attacks against people who just wanted to speak out their beliefs. So, by the benevolence of the demi-God that was Augusto Pinochet, the option “No” was allowed a screen time to promote their ideals and ideas in the same space and time as the “Yes” option would have, hence here was the chance to let out all the issues and ideas that were silenced all those years, or did they? The movie tell us that the opposition to Pinochet wasn’t too confident on even winning the election, as the members of the different political parties would only take the chance of the screen time to voice out the crimes that the government had made during those, at the time, 15 years. Nevertheless, here enters a young Mexican-Chilean publicist, played by Gael García Bernal, who comes up with the ides of ‘happiness’ and the issue that voting ‘No’ must be treated the same as selling a soda. With that original approach, and with some reactions against it that are quickly shut off, he manages to create one of the most impressive, entertaining and enlightening political campaigns that has ever been made (in my opinion) with humour and bright colors. How impressive! The movie tell us that those commercials made the option ‘No’ win, but at the same time we see how the whole process seems meaningless as the people behind the making of it are mere publicist with no political bias nor horse in this battle, they are independent mercenaries that can see the evil behind elections and how it won’t matter who wins, people lose. At least, that’s what the movie tell us in its final minutes.
Now, how mind-numbing stupid must a movie director/writer be to think that the plebiscite was won because of a publicist’s kinder and happier jingles? It was a cry from all the people from all over the country to stop the murder, the crimes and all things that didn’t need to be said (and in fact, weren’t said when they had the possibility to do so) for them to be understood to the public, they had had enough of the bullshit and they needed their freedom. Also, it’s been a source of debate and recent discussion about the utility and actual result of the plebiscite, being the most outrageous and common amongst the ‘thinkers’ the opinion that says that the fact that ‘No’ won had no impact in the society nor in the politics of Chile. While I think that many choices could’ve been different and that maybe we didn’t have the best governments after a dictatorship, it is still democracy and we get to choose amongst a fixed list the candidates we want… just as the rest of the world does, and no someone who wants more power will sit down in its chair and won’t move until the international outcry makes him move a bit, if even. The final moments of the film where Gael García Bernal’s character watches as an invisible man what he ‘accomplished’ he seems sad and not happy, confirming in some way, those views about how the result weren’t something that was actually good, but what did you want? 25 years of Pinochet? 8 more years of killings, desapparitions and murder/blood in our hands in front of the eyes of the international community? Would you prefer that? Nevertheless, it’s still a movie that is insanely entertaining from the performing level, with an special emphasis on how idiot and laughable was the ‘Yes’ campaign. Shot and shown in a 4:3 spectre to make the archive footage not confront with the filmed bits, it’s still worth seeing because it’s well made and all, but morally it’s a piece of shit.
**** out of *****