Gael Garcia Bernal as René Saavedra in No

Gael Garcia Bernal as René Saavedra in No

Tracking a dictator’s fall

Chileans political drama the next film in Penticton Art Gallery’s Kitchen Stove Film Series.

A gripping historical drama recounting the events and tensions found in Chile in 1998 is the focus of the next film in the Penticton Art Gallery’s Kitchen Stove Film Series.

No follows the national campaign over dictator Augusto Pinochet’s political future. In 1988, the Chilean dictator, due to international pressure, is forced to call a plebiscite on his presidency. His 15-year regime was characterized by its disregard for human rights, murders, imprisonments, exiles and those who just disappeared.

The country will vote yes or no to Pinochet extending his rule for another eight years.

A coalition of 16 political parties in opposition to the dictatorship persuade a brash, savvy advertising executive René Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal — The Motorcycle Diaries) to spearhead the “no” campaign. He quickly realizes that not only does he have to persuade voters on how to mark their ballots, he first has to convince a dispirited, skeptical population to even go to the polls.

“It’s an important move,” said Bernal. “When something is important and it’s expressed through an art form, then hopefully it will have a transcendence and a relevance so people can connect to it.”

Saavedra is known as a “closer” who can seduce clients with his soft voice and good looks and oozes sincerity in setting up presentations, whether it’s a TV campaign for the latest soft drink or the most important event in the life of his country. His boss just happens to be a high-ranking member of Pinochet’s advisory board and his estranged wife, who he desperately wants to reunite with to live together as a family with their son, is a radical activist who believes the plebiscite is a fraud.

Against stacked odds and with scant resources, the campaign gains momentum and the tensions and dangers build. Saavedra comes under the scrutiny of the despot’s minions and his team devises an audacious plan to win the election and set Chile free.

No is directed by Pablo Larrain, and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. This film is a winner for the Art Cinema Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Larrain said they shot the film in the same format used to shoot practically all the archive footage in the film.

“As a result, we achieved images identical to those shot in the 80s so the spectator has access to this rare footage without being aware of what is archive footage and what was shot for the film,” he said. “In doing so, we were able to avoid making the usage of archive material evidence, creating a seamless combination of time, space and material generated with Ikegami tube cameras from 1983.”

Larrain also directed the film Post-Mortem, which speaks of the origin of the dictatorship and Tony Manero about its most violent moment. No closes the trilogy for him.

“Perhaps what I am most interested in is revising and revisiting the imagery of the violence, the moral destruction and ideological distortion, not in order to understand it, but in order to shed light on it. Perhaps, in time, they can contribute a look at a period filled with poorly lit labyrinths, as well as clumsy and oftentimes forced happiness,” said Larrain.

Pre-purchase tickets at the Penticton Art Gallery and the Book Shop for $13. This movie is showing at the Landmark Cinema 7 on Oct. 17 at 4 and 7 p.m. and limited tickets may be available at the door for $15. No is rated PG and is subtitled.