Scoville Units Unite

27 Feb


I was told recently of a film called No about the 1988 referendum in Chile. I checked IMDB the next day and the DCA and was delighted to see it was showing soon.


Having taken Monday off I took a trip to an afternoon showing and was entertained. Set against the social context of the time (for those who have seen it..), it shows René Saavedra as an advertising expert brought in to work on the No campaign.

The film is shot using U-matic cameras which allow the archive footage to blend in with the film shots, helping you to imagine them as one piece. The film is shot almost entirely from the view of the No camp. Brief glimpses behind the arrogance of the Yes campaign show them to be made up of those protecting their own social position. After this, the world will see the No camp as run by the workers, and the Yes camp supported by the bosses or similar is how René describes it.

The characters are shown as paranoid and shifty, hiding what they are doing from those around them. For any viewer unaware of what was going on in Chile this might have seemed strange before the film gradually depicts the state violence meted out to the individuals and those at rallys. State censorship is shown and then telegraphed in the next days campaigning.

René’s character is more complex than as he first appears, skateboarding down the street. Often shot solo in self-contemplation coming up with ideas his personal history is gradually revealed.

I think my favourite part was the pitch he does before each of his three demos. Identical in tone, delivery and content, they are interpreted differently by the different audiences. Very clever, if not too subtle.

Viewing it as a film documenting history it is important. Firstly for showing what was happening in Chile at the time. Secondly for those of us in the UK, both understanding why there was outrage at Blair and Straw letting Pinochet off the hook for his crimes and also to show one of Thatchers favourite pals and the politics and violence behind what she and her cronies supported. It is worth contrasting the poor health of a mass murderer as a reason to not extradite with the government happily deporting those at serious risk of torture, rape and murder.

It does have an added dimension though. For those who were turned off by the terrible pro and anti campaigns for the Voting Referendum in 2011 we now have the Independence Referendum campaign to look forward to. In Chile, the No campaign was victorious in the face of state repression, expectation of electoral fraud, intimidation of campaign organisers and a massively biased media campaign against them. During all this they waged a positive campaign which raised peoples aspirations and looked to the future whilst trying to pull as many people as possible behind them. Not because they had a shared future of what they all wanted but they knew that the current political situation needed to change. What hope for Yes Scotland and Better Together. Will they spend the months leading up to the referendum telling us how much better our lives will be under the relevant decision, or will they snipe at each other and fear-monger of the consequences should the other side be victorious?

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