The movie named “NO” is about the 1988 Chilean national plebiscite which was held in October 1988 to determine continuation of Pinochet’s rule for eight years more. The movie, in particular shows us essence of the advertising and campaign of NO side that includes seventeen different parties. Also, movie is a unique one; because it is only Chilean movie running for Academy Award for best foreign language film. In the movie, we see the effort of No side campaign to convince Chilean people to vote for no. They prepare 15 minutes longed spots to present their campaign which are directed by Rene Saavedra. At the end of the movie, No side wins and this results in end of Pinochet 16-years length rule.
The movie has importance to develop better understanding of Chilean transition to democracy and era of Pinochet rule. Yes side generally focuses on chaotic situation in Chile before 1973 and the economic growth stemming from Pinochet’s economic policies. Whereas, No side tries to prove us how brutal Pinochet rule was and how important democracy is in their campaign. In this essay, I would like to make deep analysis of Yes side and No side. Furthermore, I want to write main critiques of Rene Saavedra and movie. Beside Chilean history, the movie shows the importance of music, dance and how a good campaign can affect the results.
Yes side basically wants to maintain of Pinochet rule for eight years more and legitimize his governing by referendum. In their campaign, they usually show chaotic situation in Chile before 1973. It is argued that the boycotts of unions and the protests were common and those made country ineffective so people did not feel safe under Allende rule (Skidmore, Smith, & Green, 2010 ). One of the arguments of Yes side is based on this argument. They basically argue the citizens of Chile should vote for Yes in order to feel safe and maintain progress resulted from neoliberal policies. However, this argument challenges the pressure and violation of human rights under the Pinochet rule. The other argument that Yes side generally uses in their spots is to economic growth during Pinochet rule. After 1973, Chile underwent deep changes in terms of economy. It adopted neoliberal economic policies which result in stable inflation rates and a decrease in unemployment rate (Schamis, 1991). On the contrary of bad economic performance of Allende, Chile showed better economic performance under Pinochet rule. Therefore, it is very understandable to focus on economy for Yes side. Last idea of Yes campaign is to label No side as Communist to decrease their support in public. The logic behind this idea is that if No side wins, everything that was built in last 15 years would be destroyed. These three constitutes main ideas of Yes campaign, two of which depend on the idea that No side is successor of Allende and Communism. However, No side had different parties and a campaign which is not related to Allende and Communism.
As far as No side’s campaign is concerned, their main goal is to finish Pinochet rule and transition to democracy. However, No side includes many different parties, which is their most important disadvantage. Their campaign basically depends on two arguments. Firstly, they make people to remember brutality of Pinochet rule. Killings, tortures and exiles that junta operated were common (Grandin, 2011). Secondly, thanks to Saavedra, they focus on the idea that we can have better future if Pinochet goes and have better Chile. There was conflict to determine main argument of No side to be shown in spots between different parties of No side. Some argued that brutality of Pinochet should be dominant in spots. However, Saavedra noticed that showing brutality of regime generates fear but showing optimism for future generates hope for people. The hope for future is also clear in motto “Happiness is close.” Optimism is important because apart from it, other arguments do not offer better future to citizens. No side campaign shows in the spots that they are also ordinary Chilean people not communist terrorists, which weakens Yes side argument. Another crucial part of No side campaign is visibility of the movement. They have right to propaganda only 15 minutes in a day but the experts overcome this problem by writing song, dancing and producing T-shirts. Briefly, No side campaign offer a hope and avoid generating fear, which make them more sincere than catastrophic Yes side campaign.
Apart from politics, daily life of Rene Saavedra can be seen in movie. Saavedra is a good and well-known advertiser and he generally works for multi-national big firms such as Cola firms. Furthermore, he has everything that neoliberalism offered for example a good job, a sport car and a comfortable house in a good environment. Therefore, it seems contradictory to start a challenge to destroy status-quo for a guy that benefited from it. Although he seems that he is a supporter of Pinochet rule, he becomes more and more opponent when he meets the reality of regime. I mean Saavedra is a passionate person; and threats, hardships and pressure of regime make him one of the real believers of No side. However, there is no clear evidence to show us how that kind of a guy become opponent against the system which is in favor of him. I argue that he become opponent because he saw the realty of regime when he is threatened and censored.
The main critique of movie could be oversimplification. Oversimplification is the term used for explaining result of a particular event by focusing on only limited income. In this case, oversimplification occurs; because movie gives us the idea that the result of referendum stems from only good advertising. Chile was one of the countries in Latin America with good democracy before 1973 (Skidmore, Smith, & Green, 2010 ). There were well organized unions, functioning institutions and strong student movements. Probably, the willing of people for transition to democracy, protests organized by left and student movements against regime played also important role in referendum results. There can be also economic reasons, although Chile witnessed stable inflation rate and low unemployment rate under Pinochet rule, these neoliberal economic policies created huge inequality between citizens in terms of income and distribution. The movie misses the strong democratic tradition embedded in Chile and economic difficulties that Chilean people confront. It focuses on only advertising success of No side campaign.
Finally, the movie named NO gives us a chance to learn better of Chilean transition to democracy and specific era of country. It is clear that Yes side tries to show economic success of Pinochet rule and chaotic situation of country before 1973 in their spots. On the other hand, the No side campaign is based on optimism about future and brutality of regime. Moreover, I found movie insufficient to explain how Saavedra decided to work for No side even if he is benefited from status-quo and to show other reasons why citizens vote for No. We can conclude that the reason behind the results may be willingness of Chilean people to forget the past and have a better future. On the contrary of Yes side, bright and hopeful future images were always shown in spots of No campaign.
Yunus Göker Erdiş
Grandin, G. (2011). Children of Abel: The Cold War as Revolution and Counter Revolution. In G. Grandin, The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in The Cold War (pp. 169-198). University of Chiacago Press.
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Mozaffar, O. M. (2013). NO Review. Retrieved from Roger Ebert: http://http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/no-2013
Rohter, L. (2013). One Prism on the Undoing of Pinochet: The New York Times. Retrieved 2016, from http://http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/movies/oscar-nominated-no-stirring-debate-in-chile.html?pagewanted=all
Schamis, H. E. (1991). Reconceptualizing Latin American Authoritarianism in the 1970s: From Bureauaucratic-Authoritarianism to Neoconservatism. Comparative Politics, 23(2), 201-220.
Skidmore, T. E., Smith, P. H., & Green, J. N. (2010 ). Modern Latin America. Oxford University Press.