“No”—Mad Men in Politics



 In this Chilean film, with uncanny similarities to the upcoming election in this country, we see how voting can be manipulated by brilliant promotional advertising. ”No” was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award in 2012.

Gael García Bernal (best known for his role as Che Guevara in “Motorcycle Diaries” ) plays René Saavedra, a young advertising talent at the time that General Pinochet has been in power, a dictator backed by the US government and running for reelection in 1988 for another eight years. After fifteen years of military dictatorship and facing considerable international pressure, the Chilean government asks the public to vote. If the electorate votes “no”, there will be an open democratic presidential election the following year.

René Saveedra, at first, is apolitical and enjoying the material comforts of an affluent Chilean society with his young son. After witnessing first hand the extreme violence of Pinochet’s army, he is eventually persuaded to join the “no” movement and devise an advertising campaign to encourage voters that change can really take place. In an effort to appeal to a wider audience and especially to younger voters, Rene directs an initially unorthodox and unpopular ad campaign. A negative ad campaign, he argues, will generate fear and a sense of powerlessness, which ultimately lead to voter abstention.

The drama builds as the “Yes” Pinochet forces first try intimidation against René Saavedra and the “No” movement and then parody their advertising strategy.   Even international (including American) celebrities join in the television ads for the “No” side.

René Saavedra is one of the most compromised characters whose obvious virtues run a tight race with his flaws. He is interested in making a “sale” and this time it is the future of his country that is at stake. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Saavedra brilliantly, the apolitical not-quite adult who must face a dangerous situation for him and his son. So he pulls out rainbows and smiles in dead serious ads, resonating with the Coca Cola commercials in the signature finale of the TV series “Mad Men.”   “No” is certainly worth seeing!

“Blindness” –Seeing is Believing



Based on a popular novel by the Portuguese Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago, Blindness (2008) is a dystopian tale of survival in the face of a pandemic.

 Blindness opens with an affluent Japanese businessman suddenly blocking traffic during rush hour. Inexplicably blinded, he is unable to continue driving and a seemingly good Samaritan offers to help him. When they arrive at the Japanese man’s upscale apartment, however, the “good Samaritan” steals his car and escapes. Soon the entire city is overtaken by a pandemic of “white blindness”, like driving in a snow storm. The pandemic becomes global.

The tale of survival begins. Quarantined in an abandoned mental asylum, the rules of society soon come to a screeching halt with the powerful preying on the weak. Only one woman (Julianne Moore), whose husband (Mark Ruffalo) ironically, is an eye doctor now blinded— is the witness to horrific acts. Keeping her sight a secret, she guides the blind, surviving what has become a totalitarian government imposing ruthless measures on the blind in order to maintain control and subjugation. Meanwhile, the residents are becoming increasingly hopeless and desperate, fearful of their circumstances, and taken advantage by a tyrannical “Ward 3” leader (Gael Garcia Bernal). The insurrection against the despot results in chaos and brutality towards each other.

Blindness depicts the difference between civilized society and a totally barbaric one as the thinnest of boundaries. The norms of society are fragile and easily broken. Blindness, like Lord of the Flies, raises the question: What would I do in such a situation? A thought-provoking and well-executed film!