"Machuca" looks at the swirl of events leading up to Chile's 1973 coup through the eyes of a privileged youngster and the poor Indian boy who becomes his friend.
By MARIANA CARREO KING
Chile's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, "Machuca" is a coming-of-age drama set against the political and civil turmoil that resulted in Chile's military coup and the assassination of then-President Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.
"Machuca" tells the story of 11-year-old, middle class, Gonzalo Infante (Matías Quer) and the friendship he develops with Pedro Machuca (Ariel Mateluna) and his precocious neighbor, Silvana (Manuela Martelli), who live in a nearby shanty town. Gonzalo is an introverted child, whose dysfunctional family includes an unfaithful mother, a bland father, a party-crazy sister and her obnoxious boyfriend. Machuca (as Pedro is called), is a street-smart and loyal boy who lives with his mother and drunken father in severe poverty. Gonzalo and Machuca meet at the prestigious St. Patrick's English School for Boys, which Gonzalo attends, when the school principal, Father McEnroe, grants scholarships to several children from the shanty town; one of these children is Machuca.
|Directed by: Andrs Wood.|
Written by: Mamoun Hassan, Andrs Wood.
Cast: Matas Quer, Ariel Mateluna, Manuela Martelli, Aline Kppenheim, Ernesto Malbran, Tamara Acosta, Francisco Reyes, Alejandro Trejo.
Cinematography: Miguel Joan Littin M..
Edited by: Fernando Pardo.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
Related links: Official site
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After school, Machuca works with his neighbors, Silvana and Willi (Alexander Trejo), selling cigarettes and flags in street demonstrations supporting different political and social causes. Gonzalo soon volunteers to help them. At these rallies, the dissimilarity between the boys' social classes is evident. As when Gonzalo doesn't understand the lingo in pro-Allende slogans, or when Silvana gets into a fight with Gonzalo's mother in a demonstration to protest Allende's policies.|
The boys' different social and economical backgrounds, as well as their families' political affiliations, provide the film's backbone. Machuca and Gonzalo experience what it is like to be on each side of the economical divide. Machuca marvels at Gonzalo's Adidas, a gift from his mother's older lover; Gonzalo uses a rudimentary latrine for the first time outside Gonzalo's shack. Silvana, a little older than the boys, plays a pivotal role in the boys friendship, instigating jealousy as well as alliances between them, and constantly teasing Gonzalo about his high-class background. Silvana also teaches the boys how to kiss, and these scenes are very sweet (literally there is condensed milk involved). The three young actors play their roles with such vulnerability and freshness that is both beautiful and heartbreaking to watch.
Picturing the two sides of the political and economical divide through the children's eyes is effective, and the boys' struggle to maintain their friendship is always honest. However, some scenes where the adults are confronted with the same issues fail to achieve the same level of honesty, such as when parents meet to discuss the school's policy regarding the scholarships for poor children, which some parents fiercely oppose, or the street rally to protest Allende's socialist policies, in which some demonstrators seem to be more concerned with their makeup than the country's political future. In both instances, the adult characters seem cartoonish and overrehearsed.|
Director Andrs Wood allows the young characters to develop and grow at their own pace during the months and days approaching the military coup. When the coup finally arrives, it affects the young characters in excruciatingly different ways.
There are few if any fictionalized accounts of Chile's coup or the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet; "Machuca" is a welcome and daring effort to dramatize those years. This is especially relevant given the new turn of events concerning the 89-year-old former dictator. Last December, a Chilean judge deemed Pinochet fit to stand trial for human-rights abuses, kidnappings, murder and, more recently, corruption, a major victory for the victims of his dictatorship. The country remains bitterly divided, but projects such as "Machuca" can help to further the dialogue and heal old wounds.
|JANUARY 19, 2005|
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