118 minutes, Chile-U.S.A.-France, 2012, Subtitled, Colour, D-Cinema

Chilean director Pablo Larraín hits the target with this sharp-witted, hugely entertaining recreation of the 1988 referendum when General Pinochet announced a free vote on his continuation in power, so confident of victory that he allowed his opponents a brief window of post-midnight airtime on state TV.

The film casts Gael García Bernal as the somewhat cynical hot-shot advertising exec devising the campaign for the ‘No’ vote, who’s certain the techniques he’s used to sell soft drinks in the past will persuade a wary electorate of the feelgood factor in incipient democracy. At the same time however, his life is in danger from the security services, since his scheming boss (Larraín’s signature actor Alfredo Castro) is secretly working for the General.

Shot on vintage videotape (!) to make a seamless visual blend with some amazing archive footage, this is fact-based storytelling of striking commitment and Altmanesque craft, absolutely worthy of its Oscar nomination as Best Foreign Film. Not to be missed. (Notes By Trevor Johnson.)


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