How to say ‘No’ to a dictator on Prime Video

No (Chile, 2012) tells the strange but true story of how modern advertising defeated General Augusto Pinochet in Chile.

Directed by Pablo Larraín, No takes on the story of the 1988 plebiscite vote that Pinochet arranged to “legitimize” his regime in the face of international pressure. Vote yes and keep Pinochet in charge for eight more years, or vote No to call for free elections. All very democratic, you see. Never mind that Pinochet banked on public fears of political instability in the event of a new government and kept up a campaign of intimidation of an increasingly vocal opposition. He was so confident he even made a show of giving the opposition 15 minutes of television time every evening to make its case.

Enter an unlikely hero: advertising phenom René Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal, playing a fictional composite of numerous real-life people). The foreign educated René is no liberal firebrand or crusading intellectual. He’s an advertising man who returned to Chile with new ideas for a stagnant TV culture and business mindset. The conservative industries shied away from his radical ideas so he applied them to the “No” campaign.

Think of him as the hip, young Don Draper doing the right thing for somewhat self-involved reasons, selling freedom with humor and color and images of a bright new future, just the way he would a soft drink or a deodorant. It was an ingenious and unexpected way to grab the public attention with those precious minutes, an approach that infuriated the radical left and blindsided Pinochet

Larraín approaches No much the same way, using wit and humor even as he suggests the danger underlying this collaboration. While No skirts the brutal darkness of Larraín’s previous two films, Tony Manero (with its sociopath of a protagonist) and Post Mortem, an atmosphere of intimidation hangs over the characters. These shadows of fear really communicate how and why Pinochet was convinced him he would win the vote regardless of the opposition.

It earned an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film and won an award at Cannes.

Rated R, in Spanish with English subtitles

Streams for a limited time on Prime Video

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
No [Blu-ray]
No [DVD]

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The Blu-ray and DVD releases feature commentary by director Pablo Larrain and actor Gael Garcia Bernal and a Q&A with Bernal. Note that Larrain shot “No” on U-matic video (the ¾ inch broadcast tape standard of the eighties) which gives his film a strange, soft, washed-out quality, like a manufactured time capsule of an era. You simply aren’t going to get sharp pictures or strong color, not matter what format you get.

Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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