“No” is the first Chilean film to be nominated for a foreign language Oscar (it lost to “Amour”), and in a way it could be seen as Chile’s very own “Argo”: a movie that illuminates events of a generation ago by telling a side of the story most people never knew. If there are fewer white-knuckle showdowns than in a Hollywood movie, the trade-off is a cool, ironic intelligence that ripples off the screen and up the years to where we live.
In 1988, the Chilean dictatorship held a national referendum, under international pressure, on whether General Augusto Pinochet should continue in power for another eight years. The people got to vote — “Si” or “No” — after a month of campaigning by the ruling party and a coalition of opponents. Each group got 15 minutes a night on national TV to state its case.