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Posted October 1, 2010
Political Chaos form the Vantage of Children's Eyes
Andrés Wood is a highly regarded Chilean filmmaker, a man unafraid to take on controversial issues and present them in a manner that is revelatory to his audience, whether that audience is in Chile or other South American countries - or in Europe or North America. In MACHUCA he transports us to the year 1973 in Chile when Pinochet's military coup overthrew Allende's socialist 'democracy'. Knowing that there remains a divided opinion of this period of time, a time when Allende supporters who could not escape the country were murdered or placed in detention camps as political prisoners, Woods sensitively recreates this period through the eyes of children from the populace divided by the middle class and the poor, a technique which works on every level. Saint Patrick's School for boys in Santiago is headed by a kind priest/principal Father McEnroe (Ernesto Malbran) and the rich to middle class uniformed boys include one 'strawberry faced', quiet, chubby Gonzalo Infante (Matías Quer) whose family is of means but has issues of covert infidelity with the mother (Aline Küppenheim) and father (Francisco Reyes). The Allende government is shaky, and in an attempt to appease the poor class, Saint Patrick's School takes on students from the shantytowns to 'democratize' education. Among these new students is Pedro Machuca (Ariel Mateluna) who seems to be a loner but soon becomes the brunt of the rich kids' prejudice. Gonzalo befriends Pedro and gradually the two form a strong bond which leads to each of the boys learning about their separate families and life styles: Gonzalo's life of luxury dazzles Pedro while Pedro's humble shack houses warm family that Gonzalo envies. The friendship leads to a close examination of the schism of racism and political clashes brought into sharp focus as the military coup changes everything. Only friendship remains intact in a dramatically tested fashion. Andrés Woods marries the political and the human aspects of this chaotic time in Chile and offers us insights into the ongoing changing governments of South America. His script (which he wrote with Eliseo Altunaga, Roberto Brodsky and Mamoun Hassan) is spare leaving space for much of the story to be told by observing the interaction of his two main characters with their associates. The result is a deeply moving film, an opportunity to observe the tenuous times of a period most of us barely understand. Highly Recommended. Grady HarpWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.