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Movie Review by Alice Castle

Starring: Matias Quer, Ariel Mateluna, Manuela Martelli, Aline Kuppenheim
Director: Andres Wood

For those of us who didn’t fully understand why it was so controversial for Margaret Thatcher to be cosying up to Colonel Pinochet in the 1980s, MACHUCA introduces some fascinating Chilean history from the early 70s which brings the period to life. The year is 1973 and Salvador Allende the world’s first democratically elected Marxist president has been in power for three years. As he embarked on an extensive programme of social reform, the country was split between those who were excited that Chile was making history and dealing with poverty in the South American country – and those who feared that the ruling classes would lose all power and property pushing the country into anarchy.

Filmmaker Andres Wood was an eight-year old student at a privately run Catholic boys’ school run by a progressive American Priest in the early 70s. The Priest-headmaster decided to invite some of the local slum children to learn alongside the fee-paying boys of Santiago which angered many of the middle-class parents. It is this experience that inspired Wood to make this film, focusing the action on Gonzalo Infante an eleven-year old boy from a well-off family and his new friend Machuca, one of the children from the shanty towns. As the two eleven year olds discover both the similarities and differences between them as they come of age, the political situation is becoming ever more tense and they find the innocence they enjoy is soon cut short. Machuca’s family survive as best they can and an entrepreneurial uncle sends the children out after school to the daily political demonstrations in Santiago to sell different flags, depending on which group is marching that day. Meanwhile Infante’s family is slowly falling apart.

Wood chose non-professional actors for the parts of Infante (Matias Quer) and Machuca (Ariel Mateluna) and they play their roles impeccably. Infante in particular acts out his dilemma at being torn between love for his mother and affection for a new friend which his family might find disagreeable with great sensitivity. A beautifully told story.

5 out of 6 stars