Young Gonzalo Infante (Quer) lives in a posh Santiago neighborhood and attends a Catholic boys' school run by social progressive Father McEnroe (Malbran), who has decided to open their doors to underprivileged youth. Resisting the taunts of his classmates, Gonzalo befriends the relatively impoverished Pedro Machuca (Mateluna) and an unlikely cross-class friendship blooms. But can it survive the divisive turmoil consuming Chile's warring haves and have-nots?
Set in the days before leftist leader Salvador Allende's CIA-backed assassination, which brought brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973, Wood's semi-autobiographical story puts a political twist on the coming-of-age genre. The mopey "snob" Gonzalo and his pal of mixed race Pedro come from disparate backgrounds, but they share a genuine bond – and a love interest in fiery neighbor Silvana (Manuela Martelli) – that will be tested when civil tensions stoked by street demonstrations reach a boiling point. Wood's confident direction and solid script, not to mention the fine work by his three young stars, made "Machuca" an international favorite.