Long before our September 11th, that date was infamous in South America. That day in 1973 a military junta led by a murderous thug named Augusto Pinochet and enabled by our very own CIA overthrew the freely-elected government of Chile and murdered the president, Salvador Allende. In the years to come he, and we, were responsible for well over a thousand other murders, 30,000 cases of torture, 80,000 “internments.” Over 2,000 people simply disappeared, never to be seen again.
This didn’t go unnoticed by the rest of the world. International pressure was such that Pinochet allowed a referendum to take place, asking the musical question “Do you want more of this shit, or free elections again?” This was in 1988, following a baldly rigger plebiscite that said “Sure, we like to be tortured and imprisoned without trial.” I have to assume that by 1988 the idiot either thought Chileans loved him, or that he could easily steal the election again. The opponents, the No campaign, had just thirty days to get their shit together for a vote they were not even sure would be honest, or if they themselves would be “disappeared.”
Enter René Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal), a small-time ad exec, and a lot of others brave enough to defy all the intimidation, and they brought something new to Chilean elections: Madison Avenue. Through a lot of inventive TV commercials and such, they outplayed the general and won a decisive 56% majority. Pinochet was forced to step down, and many years later was hounded to death by international charges. And good riddance.
Someone pointed out that it might not exactly be cause for celebration that this new form of campaigning, emphasizing emotions and feel-good jingles and happy people, won out over campaigning on the facts of the matter. I can see the point, but as we all know, that’s the electoral climate we all live under these days, and it’s not going to change, because it works. Appealing to emotions (but only the basest emotions) may one day get Donald Trump elected. Gad, I hope not. But in this case, the good guys won, and this documentary-style drama shows how it all happened in a very entertaining way.