(Sorry, I couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles.)
It seems like there’s a film from almost every country that features boys coming of age in a time of social upheaval. Even more amazing is that almost all of them are really good movies. Machuca is no exception. The backdrop of the film is the last days of the Allende government in Chile, just before General Pinochet’s military coup.
The film follows the friendship of Gonzalo Infante, a fresh-faced upper-class boy, and Pedro Machuca, who comes from a poor, shantytown-like area of Santiago. Both of them are students at St. Patrick’s School for Boys—Machuca goes for free through a program established by the school’s headmaster, Father McEnroe. Infante’s life is in a bit of turmoil when he meets Machuca. His mother gets the family extra goods through means the young boy finds distasteful (Chile is in the midst of major shortages), his sister is dating a jerky anti-Socialist, and he’s not very popular in school. Infante becomes further confused by life when his friendship with Machuca exposes him to the day-to-day existence of the lower class. It’s a world of political mobilization, true need, and not a short amount of danger. As the tensions between his upbringing and the realities of his friend’s life start to pull Infante in different directions, tensions also rise at the boys’ school between the classes—the same is true in the country as a whole. And seeing that Pinochet is just about to take power during the last part of the film, I won’t suggest to you that the movie is a pick me up. Nonetheless, it is a deep reflection on the power of hate, whether it be class, racial, or otherwise. As well, I think it’s a pretty accurate portrayal of the confusions of childhood. On the one hand, children often don’t have the prejudices, stubbornness, and impatience that adulthood can bring. But the outside world isn’t completely closed off to them either, and they often don’t have the tools to fully understand it.