Excerpts from a Roundtable Interview With Pablo Larrain
Director of “No”
Dallas, Texas, January 21, 2013
Presbyterian Outlook: Congratulations on your Oscar nomination (for best
Sr. Pablo Larrain: Thank you.
Presbyterian Outlook: This film was originally based on a play, right?
Sr. Pablo Larrain: Yes, but the play itself was never published. It did help
give us a framework for the script, but it still took many years to prepare.
PO: Have you received criticism because the star of the film, Gael Garcia
Bernal, is Mexican rather than Chilean?
SPL: At first, yes, but now, after audiences in my country have seen it, the
response has been in so many other places that this issue is just not the
focus. In fact, three times in the week before we began shooting I asked
Gael if he would be tutored in his accent. Each time, he declined, so I just
quit asking, and figured we’ll just see what happens. I was amazed. As
soon as the cameras started rolling, he started talking like us! I don’t
know how he did it. And then during the breaks, he would revert to this
Mexican accent. I’ve never met anyone else who could do that. It would be
a little like a man from Dallas switching to Scottish or something. It was
PO: When you say “accent,” do you mean the standard grammatical practice
in Spanish of placing the accent on a place other than the penultimate
syllable, the second from the last?
SPL: It’s not just putting the emphasis on different syllables, it’s
that in Chile, language is so much more of a mindset. There is a great use
of metaphors, of word pictures. It’s in a singsong kind of voice. It tends
to talk around realities rather than focus on them. It’s hard to explain,
but something I thought would be a big problem turned out not to be.
PO: I understand that even the shooting of this film was controversial in
SPL: Yes, we had to shoot certain scenes in secret, and for a little while
we worried about what everyone’s reaction would be, but after a time we
just decided that we just have to go forward and hope for the best. You
know, this event of the election is second in my country in importance only
to the Revolution (in 1818). And there is still much pain about this time
period, when Pinochet was President. People were very divided about him. In
fact, in my own family, though I was only 12 at the time, I remembered that
both my parents voted “Yes,” in support of Pinochet. Of course, my
father was, and still is, a right-wing Senator. But my grandfather was a
Socialist, on the far left side, so we have all sides represented just in my
family, which is not unusual in Chile. But that time period is still like an
open wound for us. Not only did Pinochet himself die a free man, but all the
people who carried out his orders to torture others are still walking the
streets, or buying lettuce next to you in the grocery store. And that’s a
continuing tragedy for us.
PO: Though Pinochet gave up the Presidency as a result of the election, he
remained commander-in-chief of the military, correct? In our country those
two are inseparable.
SPL: Yes, and his control over the military made him immune to prosecution,
and he was able to retain his bank accounts here, in the United States, and
live as a wealthy man, and never set foot in a courtroom to answer for his
PO: What’s next for you?
SPL: I honestly don’t know. I’ve been so focused on this that I have to
see it through to completion of the distribution, which is next in Europe.
Then we’ll see.
PO: Best of luck to you, and nice to meet you.
SPL: Thank you, and nice to meet you, as well.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving,