May 03 2018


Published by

Drew Daffron:

I decided to watch Machuca, a Chilean film released in 2004 from director Andres Wood. The movie was set in 1973 in the city of Santiago during Salvador Allende’s socialist government reign all the way until General Augusto Pinochet’s military coup, which I’ll explore later. The film follows the story of 11 year old protagonist, Gonzalo Infante, and his eventual friend Pedro Machuca. Gonzalo was an upper middle-class Chilean boy during a rough time period in Chile where the lower classes demanded more rights and fundamental change. While confusing for an outsider and particularly for me not knowing too much about Chilean political history, the story is relatively easy to follow due to the fact that it’s told in the eyes of a child who doesn’t necessarily understand all that is going on around him.

Gonzalo attends a prestigious private school where the principal has recently developed a social integration project that admits five underprivileged students to attend the school. One of those kids, Pedro Machuca, stands up for Gonzalo as he’s being bullied which results in the two boys becoming friends. After school that day Gonzalo follows Pedro and his neighbor Silvana as they go with their uncle to sell various propaganda at different demonstrations. They first visit a right-wing nationalist demonstration and right after they attend a leftist rally that is in support of the socialist government. Silvana teases Gonzalo at first but they eventually befriend one another and later kiss for the first time. It is around this point in the movie that the viewer realizes the major differences in the lives of Machuca and Infante seeing as one lives in an extremely small, humble home where children have to share rooms and the other has his own room to where he can keep his toys and a walk in closet for his clothes. Gonzalo is dismayed, almost in shock at the conditions of Pedros home whereas Pedro is astounded at the way Gonzalo is living, but at the same time notes the tension and difference of Gonzalo’s family life.

The political tension in Chile undeniably escalates and the friendship between the two is tested unlike anytime before. Not only are there questions arising in the country, but even in the school parents are split down the middle between being for the inclusion program or against it. While some see it as positive that the school should include these other students, others believe that the two classes should be segregated and that the poorer bunch, in this case the five students, shouldn’t be allowed to attend the prestigious private institution.

As the class tension escalates, the friend group begins to fight resulting in the separation of friendship between them, eventually driving them apart. It’s after this major scene that the coup that we learned about in class begins. In it Salvador Allende commits suicide and General Pinochet, along with the military, takes over the reigns of the country. With this comes major change. For example, the once religious school becomes militarized and results in the firing of former principal, Father McEnroe. Machuca stands up for the man and attempts to lead students in honoring the priest, which results in him getting expelled from the school. Gonzalo tries to visit his friends in their poor town but upon arriving he witnesses soldiers destroying the entire area. As he rushes to find his friends he witnesses the death of his child love/friend, Silvana,  and finds himself being dragged into the conflict until he convinces the soldiers that because of his skin complexion and fancy clothes he does not belong in the slums and therefore shouldn’t be taken away/killed, but is forced to abandon his friend Machuca in result. Thus beginning the 17 years of Chilean dictatorship, in which 250,000 Chileans were detained.

The film explores several political issues through the lens of innocent children. It is apparent in the beginning that there is somewhat of a difference between Machuca and Gonzalo but it isn’t until later in the film that we realize just how much tension has been built up between the different classes. I really thought it was interesting how the movie explored two completely different financial situations and stressed the importance of this difference in playing a role in the coup. It explores the social issues occuring during the time and is evident in the interactions of adult figures throughout the film, one scene that sticks out in particular is the interaction between Gonzalo’s mother and Silvana. While the film has several underlying themes the political and social issues are certainly the most apparently and therefore biggest throughout it. I felt like those in themselves are themes that we have picked up on in our geography class especially the importance of geographical culture and how it has played a role in history. I would definitely recommend the movie to anyone, but especially those with a tough heart, I say that because the film can definitely cause one to get in their feels. This isn’t something that has been readily explored and the movie as a whole can be a lot to handle but if you get past it’s seriousness and watch with an open mind it is surely enjoyable.

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