Director: Andrés Wood.
Starring: Matías Quer (Gonzalo Infante), Ariel Mateluna (Pedro Machuca), Manuela Martelli (Silvana), Ernesto Malbran (Father McEnroe), Aline Küppenheim (María Luisa Infante), Federico Luppi (Roberto Ochagavía), Francisco Reyes (Patricio Infante), Luis Dubó (Ismael Machuca), Tamara Acosta (Juana), Maria Olga Matte (Miss Gilda), Gabriela Medina (Lucy), Tiago Correa (Pablo), Alejandro Trejo (Willi), Andrea García-Huidobro (Isabel), Pablo Krögh (Colonel Sotomayor).
overthrow of Allende government leads to a split in friendship among school chums
Santiago, Chile, 1973. At the St. Patrick School for Boys Father McEnroe comes into Gonzalo Infante's classroom. With him are some boys from very poor families. The Father wants to intermingle the poor with the well-off and rich in a king of social experiment. He urges the students of the class to respect the new students and welcome them to the class. Father has new student Pedro Machuca sit behind Gonzalo.
There is a blonde fellow who is the class bully. He and his three henchmen kind of rule the roost. The bully takes Gonzalo's sandwich from him and starts to eat it. Then the bully starts to mess with Machuca. At least Machuca is smart enough to walk away from the little gang of bullies. After school Gonzalo's mother picks him up in her car. As they drive home, Gonzalo watches as Machuca begins to walk home. A sign on a long wall says "Say No to Civil War". Gonzalo seems rather depressed. He goes into the house. His sister is there with her jerk of a boyfriend. Soon after Gonzalo's arrival, the boyfriend goes home. On the television Allende meets with Soviet leader Brezhnev.
At school the boys jump into the pool. The poor students show up dressed only in their underwear. They have no swimming trunks. One of the boys in the pool starts making fun of them. This really makes Father angry and he sends the boy to the office. He then scolds the boys in the pool for making fun of the poor guys. Father says that they need to have respect for others regardless of their socio-economic background. Machuca jumps into the pool, starts to panic and grabs the bully forcing him down under the water. The boys all laugh.
Gonzalo looks at the headlines. One of them says: "The old capitalist economy is dead." His pensive mood is broken by his mother calling him. She is having a custom-made suit made for her at the tailor shop.
At school the boys work in the vegetable garden. Someone throws dirt onto the back of Machuca. He looks around to see who threw it. The bully plays dumb. But as he pretends he is lost in his work, the bully is struck by a clod of dirt. He looks around to see who threw it. He has no more luck than Machuca had. A little later the bully grabs Gonzalo and takes him over to where his three henchmen are holding Machuca. The bully tells Gonzalo to strike Machuca in the stomach. Gonzalo won't do it. The bully shows Gonzalo how to do it and punches Machuca in the stomach. Gonzalo still won't do it. The bullies start calling him a coward. Gonzalo finally acts, but not to hit Machuca. Instead he throws himself onto the formation holding Machuca, freeing the boy. Gonzalo starts running back to the classroom, but the big bully hits him with a thrown rock. Down goes Gonzalo. The school nurse probably puts a bandage on his forehead.
After school Machuca talks with Gonzalo. In his old truck, Machuca's uncle picks up him and Gonzalo. Gonzalo meets the uncle and the uncle's daughter, Machuca's cousin Silvana. They drive to a demonstration in favor of Allende to sell Chilean and other flags to the demonstrators. On their way, Gonzalo sees his mother with an older man riding in a automobile with a chauffer. He calls home to tell them where he is. Gonzalo tries to sell some flags for Machuca's uncle. Gonzalo, Machuca and Silvana get in the spirit with the demonstrators and start jumping up and down with them.
Mother takes Gonzalo with her when she visits the man with whom she is having an affair. Gonzalo is not happy. He waits around, is given a choice of candies by a servant and then listens at the door where his mother and lover are having sex.
At school Machuca has no idea what to do with a test involving knowledge of English. While he looks around at others, his test paper disappears. He can't figure out where it went. He finally finds out when Gonzalo returns the test paper to Machuca. The test paper has all the English answers.
Gonzalo goes to Pedro's place in shantytown. It is a completely new world for Gonzalo. He and Machuca pass by his mother working in the garden with others. Inside Pedro's shack, Gonzalo sees a lot of leftist political posters. Gonzalo has to use the bathroom and is shocked at the smelly hole in the ground with a primitive commode over it. As he returns, he runs into Silvana. She examines his bike. She tells him to bring it into the house so it doesn't get stolen. She quizzes her cousin about his knowledge of English and he fakes speaking English to her.
Gonzalo goes with his father. Signs on a closed grocery store says they have no this and no that.
The kids at school in their P.E. outfits watch Father McEnroe as he works out. Father gives himself a head-start, shouts Go! and wins the short race. Gonzalo takes Pedro over to his home. The boyfriend there acts like his usual jerk self flashing his numchucks in Pedro's face. Pedro never once draws back in fear of being hit. Machuca is amazed at the many clothes in Gonzalo's closet. Gonzalo lets him wear his Adidas sneakers. Since mom and dad are out of the house, sister and boyfriend throw a party. Sister gives Gonzalo a liquor drink, which he shares with Pedro. Pedro stays the night in Gonzalo's room. They listen when Gonzalo's parents return. But soon the parents get into a nasty argument and Gonzalo becomes sad and tries to go to sleep. Pedro listens a little longer, but soon also goes to bed.
In the morning Gonzalo is cold toward his mother. But this can't last too long because the two are very close, perhaps even a little too close. Argentines are clamoring for food at the stores. Gonzalo runs into Silvana again. They go to a private area and drink some condensed milk from cans. She tells Gonzalo that her mother left her and her father and she does not know where she went. Silvana shows Gonzalo a neat trick. She puts some milk in her mouth, puts her mouth to Gonzalo's and transfers the milk to his mouth. Gonzalo liked that and wants some more. She does it again. Pedro arrives and she does the same trick with him. Soon she is kissing both boys going back and forth with her head. Riding his bike home, Gonzalo seems uncharacteristically happy.
Gonzalo and Pedro buy a couple of lollipops that the big bully, with the help of the other boys, soon takes from them. In retrieving the lollipop, Pedro gets into a fight with the bully. Then the other boys start jumping in and there is a mass fight between the poor boys and their allies and the bullies and their allies. As the big bully continues fighting, the biggest boy in class, one of the poor boys, strikes him on the back of his head with a good shot and big bully goes down in a heap. Father is extremely disappointed with the boys. He grabs six of them and gives them a dressing down in his office.
Gonzalo finds himself once again with his mother and her lover. This time he happens to catch a glimpse of his mother laying naked in the man's bed.
The three musketeers (Gonzalo, Pedro and Silvana) take a bus ride. They pass the "Say no to civil war" sign, but this time the sign says just civil war. Someone painted over the "no" part of the sign. The trio go to a movie. Silvana leans her head on Gonzalo's shoulder. Back in Shantytown Gonzalo watches as Silvana dances to the music from the radio. Pedro's father comes back home. Soon there is a very noisy argument. The father comes out with the family money can. The mother pursues him hitting him on the back. She grabs the can from him and rushes back into the shack. Dad then asks Pedro who is the new fellow. Pedro says he's a friend. Dad then starts to belittle the idea of their friendship saying that Gonzalo will be working for his father and Pedro would be cleaning toilets. Silvana tells him off and he grabs her. Pedro has to intervene to get Silvana free of his grasp. He tells his father to leave and he does leave.
There is another street demonstration, this one represent the rightist forces. The trio is there selling flags. And in this demonstration Gonzalo sees his sister's jerk boyfriend complete with black helmet. He also sees his mother hanging out the passenger front window, beating on a skillet and shouting anti-Allende slogans. Silvana starts to get into a fight with the jerk boyfriend. Getting away from him she spits on the car carrying Gonzalo's mother. The women in the car get out and start screaming at Silvana. They become more and more outraged. Gonzalo's mother tells her friends that it's just a girl and they shouldn't be so hard on her. But then Silvana hits her with a pocketbook. This shocks Gonzalo's mother and she starts cursing at the girl. Pedro grabs Silvana and takes her away from the angry women. The trio run away from the demonstration and jump onto the back of the uncle's old truck. Pedro tells Silvana that the woman she was fighting with was Gonzalo's mother. To Gonzalo she starts cursing about his mother calling her a "puta mierda". This is interrupted by the uncle who shouts for them to get in the front cab. They have to get away quickly. Fighting has broken out between two groups with very different political views.
Gonzalo's father packs. Mom, daughter and son watch him pack.
Gonzalo is once again kissing Silvana. When Pedro tries to hug and kiss her, she pushes him away. She takes Gonzalo's bicycle and she and Pedro start walking away. Pedro comes after them. When they won't stop, he curses at Silvana. She gets very angry and ditches his bike. She, then Pedro, tell him off. In bed at night Gonzalo cries about what happened. His mother comes in to console him.
The next day two jets streak over Gonzalo's place. They are on their way to bomb the Palace in a military coup against Allende. Gonzalo, his sister and the family maid watch television as events unfold. General Pinochet speaks on TV.
The boys go to school under close watch from the soldiers. Many of the boys with long hair have all their hair clipped off. Father McEnroe tries to put a stop to this, but the soldiers just push him upstairs. The biggest boy in class screams at the military. Three soldiers grab him and take him away. The boys watch from their class room windows. A military officer comes into class to announce that the political situation has completely changed. And now the incorrect things about the school will be corrected. He then calls out the names of several boys. They have to leave the class immediately and go with the military. Nobody except the military knows why.
Pedro is being unfriendly to Gonzalo. The boys attend church at the school. Father McEnroe comes in and eats all the communion wafers stored in a chalice. He says that the church is no longer a holy place and starts to leave. Everyone is silent. Then Pedro stands up and says good-bye to Father McEnroe. Then everyone except the military stand up to say good-bye. After Father is gone, the military officer makes Pedro go with him, destination unknown. When class gets out, Gonzalo goes looking for Pedro. He goes home. The only person home is the maid. He changes out of his school uniform and puts on play clothes. He takes his bike and rides to Shantytown. When he gets there he sees scores of soldiers grabbing people on the streets and from out of their houses. They also burn all leftist posters and literature. Gonzalo spots Pedro, his mother and Silvana. The military start beating and kicking Silvana's father. Silvana screams and throws her body over her father's body laying on the ground. The soldiers keep pulling her off and kicking her father some more as she jumps on her father again and again. Apparently, the soldiers get fed up with her and one of them shoots and kills her. Gonzalo is absolutely shocked. At this moment a soldier grabs Gonzalo to push him onto a military truck. Gonzalo protests but the soldier pays not attention. Finally Gonzalo points out his nice clothes as proof he does not belong in Shantytown. The soldiers looks at his Adidas sneakers, realizes his mistake, gets mad and forces Gonzalo to get on his bike and leave. With tears in his eyes, Gonzalo pedals toward home.
On another day Gonzalo rides over to his mother's lover's new place. His mother greets him, but he feels in the way there. He is given a ride back to his home by the old man. Now the wall that once said "Say no to Civil War" is totally cleared of all graffiti.
At school the bully sits behind Gonzalo. He gives Gonzalo his test paper for Gonzalo to supply the answers. Gonzalo writes something on the paper and gives it back to the bully. The bully sees the large word "Asshole" printed across the paper.
Gonzalo rides his bike to Shantytown. It has been completely demolished and the ground wiped clean. One would never know that a Shantytown had once been located in the area.
Good movie. But no English subtitles. I hope I did not make too many mistakes in the summary. Powerful drama with an even more powerful ending. Military coups follow by military dictatorships are not the way to go. They end in way too many deaths and imprisonments. General Pinochet and his lot killed some 3,000 people with 1,200 still missing. There were some 250,000 people imprisoned.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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