foreign films

Cautiva (Captive)
Made in: Argentina
Language: Spanish
Director: Gaston Biraben
Starring: Bárbara Lombardo, Mercedes Funes, Susana Campos, Hugo Arana, Silvia Baylé, Osvaldo Santoro
Year: 2005

Synopsis: Cristina Quadri (Bárbara Lombardo) is an ordinary teenager attending a Catholic high school. Shortly after celebrating her quinceañera (Sweet Fifteen Party) with her loving parents, she's suddenly taken out of class one day and summoned to court to speak to a federal judge (Hugo Arana).

Frightened that she's been summoned without her parents' knowledge, Cristina is hit with an emotional sledgehammer when she learns that the couple who raised her are not her real parents.

Her biological parents were, in fact, political dissidents who were arrested, imprisoned, and executed without trial by the dictatorial regime that ruled in the late 1970's (backed by the US Government under then-President Jimmy Carter).

Forced to live with her grandmother (Susana Campos) and to find her place among blood relatives who are complete strangers despite their kindness, Cristina begins an emotional investigation to uncover the truth about her real mother and father.

Remarks: Cautiva is an effective, well-constructed drama about the far reaching, human costs that result from the actions of a suppressive government. Director Gaston Biraben is clear about his opposition to dictatorial regimes, but stays focused on the complex human elements from the "Dirty War" that created a generation known as "The Disappeared."

Focused and compelling, this film touches upon many political issues with passion, emotion, and realism. Biraben approaches his subject matter with a level head and excellent background research, which is far more than I can say for the shrill rantings-disguised-as-political-activism that's all too common in Hollywood these days.

Who would like this movie: Cautiva is one of those foreign films that will help familiarize you with a period in history that many of us (including myself) might not have learned about back in school.

This one is for you if you're familiar with Argentina's political past, especially the period from 1976-1983 (following the military coup that ousted Isabel Perón).

For those of us who don't know much about Argentina's "Dirty War," many of this film's main themes may be lost. But the film is intriguing enough to broaden minds, and perhaps compel you to do a little independent research.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review Written by: Joe Yang

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