Audiovisual Cultures episode 84 – Selling Democracy: Examining Language in No automated transcript

please support our Patreon to help us provide accurate transcripts

this is audiovisual cultures the podcast that explores different areas of the arts and cultural production with me paula blair visit forward slash av cultures to find out more and to join the pod this is a run through of a talk i’m going to give to a friend’s ma module called language and film and television my presentation is called selling democracy examining language in no i’ve been doing some comparative research on the use of archival footage in the 2012 films no and good vibrations and this was by way of expanding outwards and starting to do comparative studies from my research on film and visual culture in contemporary post-agreement inverted commas post-conflict northern ireland and the comparison was to examine the ways cultural products dealing with the past so these two feature films that deal directly with the past so they’re based on true stories they’re versions they’re imaginings of a truth they’re not trying to be truthful be or give accurate accounts but they both are grounded in actual history by use of archival material and i wanted to examine the different ways that they both do that and i’ve been doing that recently on my blog before i left academia that was an article i was working on with intention to send it to a journal but things went very wrong and i got very ill and it’s taken me a few years to find my way back to it and try to do something with that because it was that’s quite a late stage of drafting that all of that happened and i’d done so much research that i wanted to try and revive that again also thinking about it in light of you know because noah’s about the referendum the plebiscite in chile that resulted in a return to democracy of a kind and i think just seeing that thinking about that again in the light of what’s happened in the uk after the eu referendum and a very slim majority wanting to leave without really knowing what that is and i think you know it’s about a not just so slim majority wanting to move into democracy but again not necessarily quite knowing what they’re voting for so just some very broad reduced context of history-ish of chile the republic of chile is a former colony of spain it has a long history of resistance to any kind of rule from the pitches the indigenous people of that part of latin america they lived independently from the incas when the region was under inca rule and then when spain colonized again they continued to have a very successful resistance and live independently of from the colony and then in 1818 chile was declared independent and a republic in its own right and then in around 1888 the republic had essentially quashed them a pitches they were really very marginalized they were beaten back and things have really changed substantially for them in the past 140 years geographically because i think that’s important and i’ll talk a little bit in more depth about the geography of chile in a bit it’s a long strip on the southern cone that is surrounded by natural frontiers so in the north it’s got the atacama desert which is the driest place on earth to the west it’s got the south pacific and many many islands off the west coast to the east it’s really shaped in the east by the andes and bordered by argentina on the east and then on the site at various sites because it curls around the size of the cone that southern part is really bordered by the antarctic you know across this long strip of a country you’ve got really extreme temperatures and real extremes in humidity in this one country the different parts of it just have very very differing geographical features and so those natural frontiers make it shaped a bit like an island even though it’s part of a really huge subcontinent and it’s really interesting if you look at the film by patrice yogusman the pearl button who he goes through that geography and describes it as very similar to an archipelago really because of the islands and it’s for the islands where a lot of the pitches still are and they’re really quite pushed out and marginalized there’s not just so many of them in mainland chile anymore industrially chile is probably best known for its mineral resources it’s a major global exporter of copper and lithium i mean so many of our batteries and things anything you have that is run by batteries lithium has very likely come from chile and probably similar with a lot of the copper that we all use and that is in all of our basic appliances and things in the early 1970s i think the election was it was 1969 or 1970 under democracy a socialist government was elected with salvador allende as president and in 1973 this was overthrown in quite a shock military coup then the junta that followed this that was led by general augusto pinochet ruled for 16 years and during that time thousands of people were killed or disappeared or interned and tortured in detention camps or they were exiled and particularly the exile that’s an important point when we think about no this is in part a reason why i am very interested in the comparison between northern ireland and chile because i think a lot of that geography but a lot of those figures i think have crunched numbers a bit and if you look at the likes of population size and then percentages of how many people this involves it’s quite similar in number even though the scales are vastly different and so i think it’s really useful i think in terms of affectivity and i suppose having empathy for each other and seeing those connections where people are marginalized and they’re fighting for the rights the culture that comes from that in a ways that we use cultural products like films to try and come to terms with the past and try and hold account to the past even when we might be on the side of a thing it’s not necessarily a good or the best thing it’s really quite a tricky one ethically this one so noel directed by pablo loren and this is really the third in his loose pinochet trilogy released in 2012 it’s a critical reimagining of the plebiscite held in 1988 looking specifically at the no campaign and so the no vote was to say no to eight more years of penichet automatically without an election and no one by i think it was a 56 percent electorate majority there was a general election in 1990 and pinichat lost a consultation government so a coalition socialist government was then fairly consistent until recent years so we really were thinking about the way that this film looks back to that past this session is really about thinking through different approaches to language and this from i think from a more very very broad strokes linguistic point of view which is the angle the module is coming up this is for so some general discussion points around this i’ve got subtitling in there but i’m not really going to get into that myself but that’s something i’m encouraging the class to look at but things that will point out things like cultural currency and what does that mean what does that communicate accents and exiles because i think uh just looking at gay garcia bernal is really important for that and why casting him is so significant and then communication through song and dance and thinking about indigenous people in their languages what i’m really going to focus on in the rest of the session i’ll look at it a bit in the presentation but then when i move on into looking at the film and sequences from a film we’re going to look at film language because that’s probably where i come in really as the outsider to the class is thinking through aspects of film language that students from a linguistic point of view will necessarily have the terminology for so to think about international cultural currency what i mean by that just looking specifically at the star of the film gail garcia bernal he’s probably the only actor in the film that would be internationally recognizable the rest are all very well known in chile but not really well known unless you specifically seek out chilean film and so gail garcia bernal brings a huge amount of star part people will go to see no in the cinema because it’s a girl garcia bernal film he has that kind of attraction but also he’s important because actors can be indoor texts they bring baggage with them from their previous projects and i think specifically in this because as we’ll look at in a bit his character renee sevedra one of the ways that he traverses santiago and surrounding areas is on a motorcycle and one of the things garcia bernal will have been famous for at this point is starring as the young ernesto che guevara in the motorcycle diaries from 2004 there’s just um an evocation there of this guy has played revolutionaries before and i think renee is an accidental revolutionary in a way because he really wants to stay out of it and he gets embroiled in it his character is very interesting because he’s an amalgamation of many different people he’s an individualized fiction of lots of different people who ran the campaign i think through him that’s where the marketing language is really dissected and investigated it’s probed and i think the film takes a skeptical in the sense of stepping back and looking at the details considering the evidence using skeptical in that way when i say he takes a skeptical look at such a character he’s also somebody who’s multilingual he brings a lot with him because we’ve seen him in francophone and anglophone films quite a lot too he’s really recognizable also importantly for this film he’s distinctive because of his mexican accent and that’s really important because his character rene sevedra has been an exile he is a returned exile so that’s notable and he’s somebody who is in stark contrast to people he encounters of his father’s generation and who know his father who end up walking out of the campaign he’s leading because they’re so disgusted at the marketing language that he brings to it and the way he’s packaging and selling the idea of happiness through democracy he’s somebody who doesn’t quite sit right with everyone so he’s this insider outsider he’s got this ambivalent personality that all comes through in his mexican accent so to think a bit more about that i think there’s a sense of betrayal from his father’s contemporaries and colleagues and friends you get the sense that because this is somebody who’s referred to as being known well by the leaders of the new campaign it’s likely this person is a known socialist he’s talked about in present tense which is an indication that either he is a disappeared person and they don’t know what’s happened to him or this is somebody who’s still in exile he remains in exile presumably in mexico because it’s not safe but we don’t get the details of that this is just something unspoken that is implied that we just have to make conclusions about from knowing the context i think it is very important to just stress that he is a combination of lots of different real people and there’s not really a personal criticism on any one person it’s really just taking a critical look at the campaign and how it operated and how the ads went because it resulted in democracy but what kind of flavor of democracy was it and again this is where there’s a similarity with the northern ireland peace agreement and that it’s a very uneasy piece and there are things that people have had to let go that really cause a lot of harm and i think something very similar has happened in democracy coming to chile where it hasn’t necessarily been better for everybody so just a little bit more an accent i think it’s notable that on the yes campaign the initial i’m not sure if the name of the character has ever actually said i haven’t managed to clarify this to searches but the guy who seems to be initially leading the the yes marketing campaign is argentinian and so he is presented as a sympathetic outsider from a parallel political situation in the bordering country so this is 1988 and earlier in that decade argentina had recently emerged from its own military dictatorship and it was in substantial international debt and so i think the idea here is that the character in presenting to the yes board on which there are military leaders there are very right-wing politicians this is somebody who is telling them quite candidly you know we wish we had a pain a chat because our country’s in a bit of a mess now since we moved back to democracy rather than dictatorship and so you guys are super lucky and we’re super jealous so it’s that attitude that he brings to it he has a very romantic vision of life under dictatorship because he is from the status quo he is not somebody who would be in any way marginalized or his rights impinged on those are more things that are very useful to think about in terms of aspects of language so if we think then about national cultural currency now a really fascinating part of no and one of the reflexive things that it does is you have real people coming in and re-performing those earlier versions of themselves so an example is patricio bagnados who was very well known very recognizable in chile a broadcast journalist from a left side of the political spectrum we need to check the details if you want to look into this more yourself as far as i’m aware he was somebody who hadn’t really been allowed to work properly for a while he was somebody who was suppressed by the dictatorship and so he is recruited by the new campaign to do a lot of the presenting of the new television segments so this idea that they had 15 minutes a day in the run-up to the election so he was doing a lot of work with those and it’s really interesting because you have scenes where it has the actual man playing himself about 23 years earlier that’s just one example there are loads of examples of this because a lot of the players in the new video so a lot of the singers a lot of the actors they come back and they re-perform and they have recreated costumes and they’re all of course visibly older because they’re all supposed to be reasonably young and carefree in the videos and of course they’re 20 odd years older and so that’s clear young people who were saying their 20s before first time around they’re now in their mid 40s and 50s and so on and so everybody looks visibly older and so there’s a very conscious device happening here where it’s this collapse of the past and the present for me anyway they evoke this feeling of it’s still not over they’re still campaigning for this it’s still very much in the present because things are not as they should be for society so there’s a lot of that there are a lot of recognizable people from the real world in this film as well if we think about that then because if we think about the archival footage we have something that’s really very poignant in the film and we can think about dance as language and what that communicates so if we think about the quicker i’m not sure of the pronunciation there so forgive me if i’m getting that wrong this isn’t a dance that depicts according ritual i think specifically it’s between a rooster and a hen the idea is that it’s associated with rural laborers so it’s the courtship between a farmer and a rural woman this is something that was appropriated by pinochet’s dictatorship it was declared as the national dance of chile in 1979 so this is a good six years into the dictatorship and awful atrocities happening to the people lots of oppression of rural people there’s an absence of men because it’s mostly men who are the ones who get arrested get interned or disappeared and so on just at the mirrors hint that they could be dissenters a protest to this was the women who were say the spices of men who had been killed or disappeared or exiled the spices to people who had been lost to the dictatorship in some way they would dance this cording dance alone and visibly alone in collectives and so this is something that is used to very poignant effects in the campaign and it’s focused on a bit during the film and i think specifically renee isn’t happy about the inclusion of this because he’s trying to paint a picture of the joy that will come to chile when they vote for democracy he’s very much of the school of let’s move on and forget the past shall we i think in part because he’s been shielded from it he’s been very far away in mexico which is very far north from chile it feels like a world away it’s a whole subcontinent away he’s been very distant from the whole thing but also economically it doesn’t affect him his life doesn’t change he’s not really even that interested and he keeps complaining that everything’s a drag he doesn’t like the pulling of the heartstrings that this does he doesn’t want people to feel sad he wants people to feel joyous and he wants to manipulate them into buying no as a product buying in to know basically again thinking about more marginal ways of communicating the pitches they make up something like 85 percent of the indigenous people in chile and i highly recommend if you watch the pearl button there’s quite a lot from them in interviews where you know they speak their own language and explaining i think there’s some so i need to re-watch it actually if i remember correctly they talk quite a bit about really having to cling on to their own language and it being very marginalized and that spanish is really taking over and specifically in in the film no their absence is notable there’s an absence of them visually but references to them are very much implied so the pitches they are talked about and very derogatory language is used about them specifically by lucha guzman who is the boss of renee and the the advertising company that they seem to work for he also becomes the leader of the s campaign so renee is equivalent on yes when he’s talking about demo pitches to one of the other yes campaign leaders he uses homophobic and racist slurs there’s an acknowledgement of the erasure of indigenous peoples in the misunsen so in the decor of a restaurant that we see renee and luchuwin early on there’s a jungle-like setting it’s not fully clear there’s a figure that’s quite possibly inca or i’m a pichi but it’s quite a fetishized image of a native that idea so again there’s just this acknowledgment that there’s erasure of these people going on they don’t have a voice but they’re fetishized for a themed restaurant for example so again they’re used to buy and sell notably when the first televised campaigns go out and there’s a long sequence in which everybody is watching the no one and then straight after the yes video there’s a pardon in the s segment with rapa nui children singing for pinichat so some of the lyrics in this song are mahu ariki nui the child you see her visibly crying as she’s singing these words and maori this means healed great lord i think it’s appropriated as quite a patriotic bent there’s footage of this child who’s very scantily clad because she’s in traditional married dress traditional polynesian dress of the general hugging and kissing her in the context in which this is presented you don’t know why this girl’s crying i think in the montage that it’s put into it’s presented as if she’s just so proud but you don’t know if she’s crying because she’s made to do this and she’s actually miserable who knew who knows or did it means so much to her and then he’s on a photo opportunity where he needs to look like well i love all of my peoples including these um polynesian people on easter island which is a geopolitical territory of chiles so there’s a very propagandist thing going on it’s does he actually care about indigenous people well he certainly goes to great lengths to look as if he does and i think this is very notable because if you look in contrast at the no campaign there’s an absence these people aren’t there at all yes acknowledge them and they acknowledge them in quite negative ways or presented as positive but actually very appropriating ways and this is so important because no just doesn’t acknowledge them you would think that yes being shown to be derogatory towards them would imply that the no leftist people would be true socialists and that they are fighting the corner of the indigenous people as well but they’re just completely absent and so i think that absence that silence is amplified by the fact that they’re actually acknowledged at least even if it is in derogatory ways by the yes campaign so i think there’s actually quite a lot to unpick there and so just to think then a little bit more about that geography so if you’re watching on the video on screen i’ve got a map view of chile in the south pacific you can really see the difference because marked by the pin is where easter island is or rapa nui and how very far away from santiago it is and mainland chile you can also just see this series of islands that chili bricks sign into there too and then it’s just this long strip along the bottom cone and it breaks up into many many islands i think it’s interesting to point this out from a language point of view because if you look up some information on rapa nui today it seems like spanish is becoming increasingly popular as a language and marry less so and i think politically if it’s of interest if you want to explore this further i’ve written about this in a blog recently just tracking to quite severe swings between left and right in the government of chile and it’s interesting because in chile the same president cannot hold office two terms in a row so i think in a way from a very uninformed point of view i’m suggesting that it feels like there’s just this continual every four years passing between right and left right and left right and left governments because you can’t return the same president for two terms in a row you can return the same president innumerable times but they just can’t hold office two terms in a row and if somebody’s really popular so it has been passing between the same two people for a while now so it’s been a socialist and then a billionaire right winger and back and forth and back and forth for a bit it’s indicative of a country that today doesn’t really know where it stands on these things it can’t settle and then there’s no type of government that can really get a good run up things to maybe address issues the socialist coalition different parties made this up and that’s why you’ve got that six banded rainbow because those colors each represent the sex parties involved in the coalition they between them were in par for let’s say from 1990 until was it 20 i’m not oh i can’t remember neither year but i think definitely 2010 somebody right wing was voted in i remember that because it was the same year that david cameron became prime minister in the uk with the coalition government so i think for nearly 20 years don’t quote me on that do check but i think for a good block of time it was passed between different socialist parties i think there was tremendous frustration at the idea of well we’re just gonna throw up a monument to these things and then not really ever dealing with anything that happened and so i think a lot of people got off scot-free including pinochet himself i mean he remained leader of the army for a good few years and then when he retired he was wanted in many countries and he was arrested in london at one point but he never was charged for anything he was never charged for his crimes and his human rights abuses he got away with everything and he died in 2004 he got off scot-free so and no one from his administration as far as i’m aware has ever encountered any justice for um anything that happened there’s just a huge amount going on in this one film that you could go off and explore keeping it relevant to thinking about language you know it’s really important to think then about i think the song sequences in those parts with the rapa nui language the maori language songs because they come up in the subtitles i think no matter what language you have your subtitles in they come up in the roman characters it’s the maori that you’re reading so you don’t actually know what is being said in the song so this is something i had to search for and figure it out i think there’s nothing from them pictures speaking at all in it so thinking then about where i come in with thinking about language you’re thinking about the film language and this so i’ve already mentioned things like elements of the misunsense specifically decor so what are we talking about when we say reading film language so the four main areas to breakdown is cinematography editing nissan and sound so the cinematography is everything to do with camera so that includes where it’s positioned proximity what kind of focus has it got what kind of lens has it got what kind of camera is it is it digital is it film is it 16 millimeters at 35 what’s the focus like is there a focus rack is it on a zoom is it not is it moving is it static what kind of movement is it is it panning is it dollying is it zooming is it dolly zooming so there’s loads of areas to go with that with editing we’re thinking about everything to do with how the film is put together and plays out on screen this is the cutting what way is it cut what kind of transitions are we seeing are we thinking about in camera editing are we thinking about editing styles are we thinking about very long takes or are we thinking about lots of cuts happening in a short space of time what is the structure of the film those sorts of questions then with misonsen this is everything we can see in the frame and so this includes lots of elements so this includes colors that we’re seeing it includes the actors where actors or things are positioned so they’re blocking it can include where they are relative to the camera at any time the props the decor the lighting is their shadow is there not what’s going on with costumes what are people wearing where are they what’s their location what’s their setting are they inside are they outside what sort of building is it uh what sort of place are they in all of those sorts of things so absolutely everything that you see is the amazon sen then with sound with the audio this is everything you can hear and this could be music and this can be diegetic or non-diegetic or extra diegetic music and dialogue can be sound effects or a voiceover whether it’s in stereo or mono what the balance is and i think the balance is a really interesting one with no because if you haven’t already i highly recommend watching know with headphones on because some very interesting stuff is going on in the sign balance it switches between your ears depending on what you’re seeing and i think there’s something in that relationship those are the sorts of things that we’re thinking about because all of these things on their own and working in conjunction with each other they all communicate loads of stuff without the film actually blatantly telling you things just some examples from this so earlier i had mentioned when i was talking about cultural currency i mentioned that gail garcia bernal had starred in the motorcycle diaries and i think it’s pretty significant that one of his vehicles of choice and the one that we see him use the most and know as renee cevedra is a motorcycle so i want to think about what kind of vehicle is this it’s a solitary use vehicle pretty much it has connotations of being alone being strong being independent being free and free is the key word because it’s a sense of freedom and happiness through freedom that renee sells as an advertising designer an executive so on screen if you’re seeing it is a still from the film of him on the open road he’s quite central in the frame he’s outside the city of santiago he’s on his way to a big choice where they’re all going to get together and discuss the campaign okay so this is evocation then of freedom so he’s on a country road he’s flanked by trees and countryside and so i think this is a really notable image of renee this is one of the ways that we can start to learn about his character through looking at the ways in which he moves through space so another one this next shot i want to look at is a shot of renee on another one of his vehicles of choice the skateboard so what kind of vehicle is this well it’s a single occupancy vehicle again it’s a sequence in which he is in a very carefree way just sailing on down the road he’s weaving around things it’s a very 80s sense of freedom as well because i mean i for one i can’t really look at especially a grown man on a skateboard and not think about back to the future not think about marty mcfly especially with the jeans and the type of trainers that renee savage is wearing at this point you know in the shirt hanging out from under his jacket the very 80s hair he’s got this little tiny it’s not even a ponytail it’s just this little very eeries his hair is verging on a mullet and then just this one long length of hair in the middle and so you can see that a bit from the back view of him on the skateboard and so again there’s there’s just this characterization of him as a lone wolf type character he traverses space with ease he’s very comfortable with being on his own you know even though he has a small child he’s very often leaving him with the nanny he doesn’t use his car all that often so he he has a car and it’s ref i think it’s referenced more than he actually uses it you see him more in the skateboarder in the motorcycle and he’s never carrying anything he never has a bag or anything even though he’s supposedly working on stuff all of the time he’s very mobile and so i get this idea especially when we see him on the skateboard and he’s waving around he’s not really holding a straight line or anything and it’s very early on in the film we see him on the skateboard i think it’s this idea of his mobility and the ease with which he moves he veers left and right because i think he’s very malleable at this point i think he becomes more rigid as the film goes along and he’s in a more you know the motorcycle in the car you need to stick to your lane basically whereas in this he’s in his lane but he’s veering around so i think that’s pretty significant and that’s a clip that with the class i want to look at try to do a sequence analysis on this because other things going on here are there’s a lot of sun flare okay so there’s this idea that it’s very early morning it’s a very bright sun we’re southern hemisphere so i guess it’s spring in october so i think this is a very springtime sun if i’m right about that very long shadows lots of sunflower going on the camera is very mobile we see renee from a lot of different angles and importantly this is one example of nanny where the camera crosses the line okay it crosses the invisible both the 180 and 30 degree rule lines it’s quite disorientating it’s just a little bit jarring it’s not hugely jarring because i think this happens where the camera is actually moving it’s not cutting when it does this but it’s jarring in the sense that your position has changed and your point of view of looking at renee is changed within the shot so i think again there’s something going on there that really needs to be probed a bit more so this is a point where for the class that’ll be running i intend to then have a more general discussion and if anybody has any specific questions about anything that’s where i will want to draw on those and then also look at sequence analysis and look at parts that i think are very notable and demonstrate those issues in film language that i think are important and should be useful to bring to a module that’s coming from more of a linguistic point of view some recommended viewing if you want to try to get up to speed on a lot of these broader issues initially i highly recommend just about any film by patricio guzman but i think especially the pearl button and nostalgia for the light really very beautiful deeply moving and quite difficult to watch at times but highly worth it films from 2010 and 2015 and he himself is in exile and has been living in europe since the early 70s but also from the 1970s the battle of chile i think they’re really important films to try and get up to speed with a lot of the issues that would help fill out the backdrop i’d also recommend tony monero and post-mortem which again are very difficult films to watch but are really worth watching if you get through them and they are the first two of this loose pinichet trilogy from pablo lorraine they’re all linked by the actor alfredo castro who plays lucho guzman the leader of the yes campaign in no he plays the lead character in tony monero who is obsessed with tony monero in the film saturday night fever and he’s a bit of a microcosmic look at a type of dictator character and he’s also in postmortem as a morgue worker who falls in love with i think she’s a dancer who seems to be a revolutionary so those are very difficult views but they’re really worth watching if you can and for the class i’ve also supplied a bit of a reading list that isn’t on here a few details on the last side just if people want to get in touch and check out the rest of what i do including a link to my blog where i have been writing about know quite recently thank you very much for visiting my page this has been a cozy peapod production with me paula blair the music is common ground by airton used under a creative commons 3.0 non-commercial license and is downloadable from episodes release every other wednesday subscribe on apple podcasts spotify amazon music or wherever you find your podcasts see the show notes for a video link if you need auto captions be part of the conversation with av cultures on facebook and twitter or iv cultures pod on instagram as well as patreon membership one-off support is appreciated at buy me a forward slash pea blair i produce and edit the show by myself and i am grateful for any support for this work for more information and episode links visit thank you so much for listening catch you next time



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s