Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Turning the word "NO" into an affirmation

 "Truth and love must triumph over lies and hatred." - Vaclav Havel

Today, the death of the authoritarian president of Venezuela was announced within hours of Angel Carromero confirming that Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante had been killed by agents of the Cuban government. Tonight, at the 30th Miami International Film Festival a very special film saw its Miami premier.

Just left the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center after viewing what one month ago this blog recommended keeping an eye out for, a film about the 1988 plebiscite in Chile called "NO." The film by Pablo Larraín had been nominated for an Academy Award in 2013 for Best Foreign Film but lost to the French drama, Amour

Q&A with Alfred Castro who played Lucho Guzman
Nevertheless, having spent time in Chile and being familiar with the democratic transition there, having had the honor of meeting with and talking to various activists who actually participated in the struggle, I knew that the film would be worth seeing. Therefore, went in with high expectations, and although a fictionalized account, the film delivered. 

With President Patricio Aylwin who appears in the film
The Pinochet regime in 1988 was seeking greater international legitimacy and organized a plebiscite in which Chileans could vote "yes" for eight more years of military rule or "no" for an end to the military government.

The film in a fictionalized manner dramatizes the campaigns for and against the vote while using actual footage from the campaign. Additionally, some of the actual participants appear in the film at their present age but when filmed, the documentary footage shows them as they were at the time. 

Vaclav Havel in 1989 in the midst of the Velvet Revolution said something that on the face of it seems obvious:  "Truth and love must triumph over lies and hatred."

The campaign for the "No" which is a negative word managed to turn the word into an affirmation by rejecting hatred, violence, censorship and identifying the word with defiance to tyranny and freedom. In a real sense this film is an exploration of Havel's aphorism.

Tonight after the film there was a short Question and Answer session with Alfredo Castro, who played the role of Lucho Guzman, the publicist backing the Yes Campaign who delivers an excellent performance.

The film has sparked a debate in Chile over its emphasis on the fictionalized publicists and the downplaying of the grassroots work of the opposition that registered 7.5 million Chileans to vote.   

Nevertheless, the film offers viewers the nonviolent essence of the successful campaign that overthrew Pinochet, and that is something to be celebrated.  It also offers journalists a chance to interview the real participants in the struggle to end the Pinochet government.

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