Directed by Andrés Wood, starring Matías Quer, Ariel Mateluna, Manuela Martelli, Aline Küppenheim and Ernesto Malbrán.
Andrés Wood's third feature film is set during the last days of President Allende's rule and the first days of Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile. The story is told through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy, Gonzalo (Quer), who befriends a poor classmate named Pedro Machuca (Mateluna).
The boys are thrown together when the idealistic headmaster of Gonzalo's private, elitist school, Father McEnroe (Malbrán), welcomes boys from the local shantytown, including Pedro, to receive a free education in the hopes of promoting greater equality. Gonzalo and Pedro soon become friends, but it isn't long before Gonzalo's privileged lifestyle and Pedro's poverty-stricken existence create a rift between them.
At the same time, there is heightening political tension in Chile, as protests by communists and the opposing National Front in Santiago see the country spiralling towards possible civil war. The differences between Gonzalo and Pedro become glaringly obvious as poor people are seen as a menace to order and blamed for the increasing turmoil. Even Gonzalo uses his more privileged position against his friend when he helps him cheat on a test, but doesn't let Pedro do as well as him.
Wood's film, partly based on his own experience, is a harrowing example of the gap between rich and poor. He perfectly captures the hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness of the elite, who turn a blind eye to the sufferings of the poor. What's slightly disappointing, though, is that we see everything from Gonzalo's perspective, without Pedro's view to balance it.
Despite that, 'Machuca' is an honest account of friendship in a time of struggle and the restrictions and realities imposed on people from different worlds. Well worth seeing.