by Jim Ridley
This week Sony Pictures Home Entertainment announced the imminent release of one of the season's arthouse favorites, Pablo Larrain's Oscar-nominated NO, which played a successful run at The Belcourt last month and arrives on DVD/Blu-Ray June 25. You could take the word of professional critics who hailed it as an unusually funny, entertaining and provocative fact-based political dramatization — or listen to MNPS teacher Laura Clemmons' Spanish 4 students at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School.
Clemmons tells Country Life that her class is conducted exclusively in Spanish "as we learn about historical and contemporary issues of Spanish-speaking countries." That includes watching foreign films such as Mark Kendall's school-bus picaresque La Camioneta, which The Belcourt's education and engagement coordinator Allison Inman arranged to screen for the class. When several of Clemmons' 11th grade students asked to see NO during its Belcourt run, she says, she put in a call to the theater.
The movie couldn't have fit either the teacher's or the theater's purposes better. Larrain's film uses a video-derived visual style to match its subject, the successful PR campaign that used advertising savvy and strategy to sucker-punch Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet in the 1988 referendum on extending his term. The class had been studying Chile, and the theater has worked to build educational opportunities into its outreach efforts.
"Allison arranged for us to see NO during the school day," Clemmons writes CL in an email. "This experience brought our studies about Chile to life. In addition to practicing listening skills and learning about this part of Chilean history, we talked about filming techniques and propaganda." Students were especially taken with Inman's entreaties to pay attention to the names that roll by in a movie's credits, as each represents a different aspect of filmmaking, a different set of skills — and an individual contributing to a team effort.
We asked Clemmons if her students would share their thoughts about the movie, be they political, technical or artistic. They came back with responses that should silence the old yap about how today's young viewers have no interest in subtitled movies or politics. On both subjects, the students sound more open-minded than a lot of adults we could name. Below, their thoughts:
I really enjoyed watching NO through my Spanish class, to help our understanding of Pinochet. The different showing of propaganda really stood out to me. I enjoyed the setting of the film and how it was produced. The presentation as a documentary was fascinating because it showed me what people were really going through at the time. I had done some research after the seeing the movie and I learned that some of the footage was actually from the time period! This really brought my attention to the struggles that many of the people faced for having their own opinion and what they believed in. Overall the movie was great!
— Himisha Patel
NO was a very interesting film that showed life during the time of the plebiscite in Chile. I liked the way that the film integrates the personal life of the character while managing to maintain the focus on the campaign itself. Along with the depiction of the conflict within the campaign itself, and how they manage to overcome personal differences in order to bring about a better country. I learned a lot about the actual campaign and how it was much different from what I expected. The film also portrays the difficulty of actually organizing the campaigning very effectively. The way the film was filmed also drew the audience in, as it was gave a feeling for the time period that it was set in. Overall a very good film to watch, as it is informative of the Chilean situation in the time.
— Hiten Bhatewara
I thought that the movie was very entertaining. There were two things in particular which were particularly interesting to me. First, I liked how the director used actual footage from the election in the movie. That made it more realistic. Second, I liked the way that the story was told. Instead of having a conventional plot, the audience learned about the election via watching the making and disseminating of political propaganda.
— Jerrod Attias
I thought NO was an interesting movie! I liked the filming because it had real footage in it, not fake acting, and the actors were very realistic. I also learned a lot about Pinochet and his reign. I found NO an enjoyable movie and educational experience.
— Savannah Osborn
It was a privilege to get to see the movie NO! It was like no other fiction movie I'd seen before. My favorite aspect of the film was that it seemed like a real documentary occurring at that very moment in Chile. By watching this movie, you can visibly tell the differences in advertisement in contrast with the U.S. Here, our commercials get straight to the point by showing off a new product or concept, persuading the public that it's a "must have." In NO, we get to see the beauty of propaganda and persuasion. The commercials for voting "No" were long and told a story to viewers, which I found quite interesting. You almost feel as though you should be bored watching a long "infomercial," but it was the complete opposite. NO was a film that definitely kept my attention, and one I recommend.
— Shantheria Carlisle
I thought the filming technique was interesting and different from most movies. It was different that instead of just watching from a distance, it seemed like we were watching the characters up close. I also liked the slogan and advertising for the "No" campaign. I thought it was creative, rather than just saying "vote no" they said "no mas," so that people could understand that they were voting for peace and happiness.
— Natalia Johnson
From watching the movie NO, I learned many new things. I learned about the two campaigns, "Si" and "No," and I also learned of where the origins of the two arguments came from. I was surprised to see the first advertising clip the "No" campaign made as it showed all of the violence that Pinochet had inflicted upon the people of his own country. It was also mesmerizing to see how the "No" campaign depicted the ameliorated Chile without Pinochet in power. I enjoyed the movie as it did not concentrate on just the violence but showed enough for the audience to know the severity of the situation.
— Janelle Chavarria
Visiting the Belcourt Theatre allows for me to temporarily place aside my school-harried, nerve-infringed emotions to view the world through another set of eyes, depicted through illustrative movie scenes. When our class went on an excursion to see the movie NO, I felt my mundane perceptions of routine life dissipate, only to be filled with muted hues of a news-lens camera. The filming techniques, somewhat purposefully dated, really captivated my attention in really being able to gain the sense of culture and reality in an older period of time. Quite interestingly, I was honestly bemused and astounded by the picture quality that allowed for the viewer to have the sensation of living and experiencing the dire time in which Chilean elections took place in the '70s. The special, antiquated technique truly added onto the illustration of the film in connecting the audience to the characters, very much alive in their frenzied roles and lives within the movie with a nostalgic, grainy appearance.
— Sarah Wang
One of the best things about the movie NO is the emphasis it puts on the propaganda aspect of political campaigns. Even though many people know that advertisements are a key part of a candidate's campaign, the work that goes into ensuring the success of the campaign is often ignored. In the film, the propaganda for both sides was constantly changing in response to other. Through this the stress and challenges that the people in charge of the propaganda is shown, which for many was a surprising aspect of advertisement. In many ways, as shown in this movie, the propaganda is the most difficult and influential part of a political campaign.
— Kamri Jordan
When the opening scene of NO flashed on the screen, I immediately noticed the difference from traditional filming style. There was a grainy, uncut quality that made it similar to a documentary out of the '80s. The way the movie was presented made you believe you were watching actual footage from that time period. NO wrapped you up in the experience of the referendum of Pinochet's 1988 regime.
— Anna Jernigan
The thing I liked most about NO was how real it seemed. The director didn't make his own artistic rendition of the history, he showed the facts. I love that he used real new footage instead of cheesy reenactments. He made it feel like a documentary rather than a movie.
— Rebecca Batchelor
NO really felt like a documentary, not a regular film. The Beta Cam camera made the whole film feel real, not set up. The different advertising techniques were very intriguing, especially comparing the two strategies. It was almost as if we had a backstage pass into each filming room, seeing each side's ways and motives to convince the Chilean public.
— Rachel Batchelor
The movie NO is surely one of the simplest ways of understanding the development of politics in Chile. Despite the seriousness of the event, the propaganda portrayed acted as if it were a comical advertisement for a product. (The product being the + besides the "No.") I believe that making the propaganda amusing captured the idea of how blatantly obvious the choice to remove Pinochet was. Overall, the propaganda was brilliantly thought out and the movie did a great job of developing those thoughts and putting them in a movie.
— Luis Meneses
The movie NO had many interesting aspects especially the way they displayed the advertising. Personally, I thought it was really cool to see a more behind the scenes look on how the advertisements were created and how they came up with their ideas. It was also interesting to see the strategies each side chose to use for their campaign. The "No" side used an especially surprising strategy using the form of happiness as their main focus. The filming technique chosen made the film look like it might have actually been filmed in the time period of Pinochet's presidency. The inclusion of how being involved in the advertisements affected the lives of those who helped was eye opening. I never thought about how the campaign affected the lives of those who created it.
— Maria Villalobos
NO was a great, powerful film. It was very informative, while at the same time entertaining. In my opinion, the filming technique used was the most interesting part of the film. The filter used made it appear to actually be shot during that time period. In turn, that made me feel as if I was living the film, rather than just viewing it. I recommend this movie for anyone, whether you are interested in history, film, or just want to see a good movie.
— Regina Tisdale
I really enjoyed getting to experience the film NO. It put me in another world, another country for a minute. I was able to see and experience the voting procedures that occurred in Chile, which are both the same and different from our own. In both the United States and in Chile, there are usually two main political parties vying for office; for us, they are Democrat and Republican. In both countries, there are political campaigns that both parties conduct to persuade their audience to vote for them. The United States relies more heavily on debates and public campaigns while Chile relies more heavily on T.V. advertisements, usually accompanied with a catchy song. What I found different in Chile, however, was that those that opposed Pinochet, the dictator running for office, made campaigns saying “Vote NO”, while Pinochet’s supporters made campaigns saying “Vote Yes”. While the political parties in the United States influence people to vote for them, they don’t exactly say “Vote Yes” or “Vote No.” This is probably because in Chile, it is more of a dictatorship than a republic, leaving only room enough for one opposition. I also really enjoyed the way the director filmed the movie. Every scene that was shown expressed pure emotion, evident in every character’s face. The ending was very touching, and the way the most emotional parts of the movie were filmed, showing the characters’ faces up close, made it more moving and heartfelt. I would recommend this movie to anyone interested in political campaigns or a really strong, thought-provoking movie.
— Deborah Opeke
The film NO was an amazing video. I loved the perspective that the director took to tell the story of Pinochet's regime. The film grade used produced a sense of realism as if it were true. I believe the advertisements, however, were unexpected to me because I felt that the joy incorporated in the commercials was overwhelming. In the U.S., the advertisements are more centered on what changes citizens can expect on an economical scale. In No, the filmer chose a more emotional approach showing the future effect to saying no to Pinochet continuing his dictatorship. All in all, the movie was an awesome academic film that I will never forget.
— Quanique Coffman
The plot of the film NO really made me want to learn more about the reign of Pinochet in Chile. One aspect of the film that I liked was the way that it was shot. Not only did they have the actors dress as though they were in the '80s but they also shot the entire movie in Beta Cam which made it seem as though it was actually filmed during the '80s. This is different from other movies that portray past events. Many movies today use high definition resolutions to shoot their movies. Although filming it this way may not take away from the true story and meaning, it's always nice when producers add in an extra aspect to make the story seem more realistic.
— Ariana Banks
There are a variety of aspects I enjoyed in regards to the film NO. It elaborated upon a variety of intriguing and relatable topics (ranging from the struggle for a voice to love and family related matters). Additionally, I found the political issues to be highly controversial which I believe is a quality that every grand movie possesses. The filming techniques evoked a variety of emotions from the audience due to the film's ability to allow us to feel as if we are right next to the characters. The advertising comments were very fascinating in how they portrayed the true spirit of advertisement, choosing mockery over attaining the main goal. The United States is one country that can relate to this method due to the notion that it implements the same strategies in its own broadcasts. For these reasons and many more, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and hope that a sequel is in the near future.
— Ilyana Ilieva