Hollywood, Chile, eBay and No

Is there a connection between a brutal dictator, a Hollywood icon, eBay, your local cinema and Amnesty International? The answer is yes and ‘No’.

Here is a bit of background. Forty years ago in Chile, General Augusto Pinochet swept the democratic-elected government of Salvador Allende out of power in a bloody coup. It was to mark the start of a reign of terror for the nation’s people.

During his 17-year rule, Amnesty repeatedly exposed brutal human rights abuses. At least 1,100 people were people forcibly disappeared, more than 2,000 were unlawfully killed and several thousands were tortured by the military forces.

It took a momentous referendum in 1988 to finally loosen Pinochet’s brutal grip on power.

The vote was supposed to be a formality extending Pinochet’s ‘presidential’ reign for another eight years. In a token nod towards fair play, Pinochet gave the opposition a 15-minute slot each evening on state television. It was to be the start of one of the most memorable advertising campaigns in history.

The ‘No’ campaign triumphed on 5 October 1988 claiming 55.98% of the vote. It would lead to Pinochet’s resignation.

The campaign forms the basis of ‘No’, the new Oscar-nominated film starring Hollywood legend Gael Garcia Bernal.

The film doesn’t show the horrors of Pinochet’s regime, but it is a superb entry point to engage a new audience in the human rights abuses that happened in 1970s and 1980s Chile.

Gael’s character is based on the real life advertising executive Eugenio Garcia and the pair visited Amnesty’s HQ last week to help promote the film.

Of course, it’s not all a bed of roses in Chile even now. There are still a few old laws on the statue books that need to be repealed if the victims of Pinochet’s regime are to receive justice. And sadly the issue of impunity remains rife across Latin America. It’s a reality that has not escaped Gael and Eugenio. And the pair used the opportunity to back Amnesty’s call for an end to impunity – a call that was carried in the Express.

But the call wasn’t the only action the pair helped Amnesty with. They took part in an online Q&A for us, posed for pictures (one of which made the front page of the Metro), Eugenio was interviewed for the Amnesty magazine (so look out for that in the future), and Gael was interviewed by Amnesty supporter and renowned film critic and columnist Mariella Fostrup which you can see both on our site and on the Guardian’s.

Eugenio and Gael then signed two huge posters and one placard picture, all of which you will be able to bid on eBay later today.

The film itself goes nationwide today and on Tuesday there will be a series of special screenings at Picturehouse cinemas across the country in association with Amnesty International. All of them will have an Amnesty presence and most will have an expert on Chile or a former prisoner of conscience introducing the film. Find your nearest screening.

I’ve already had a sneaky peak at the film. I’ve seen a lot of human rights films in my time and I’d put it right at the top. Personally, I’ll be at the Greenwich screening. But don’t take my word for how good it is…
 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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