Political Film Society - Cautiva

PFS Film Review


CautivaFrom 1976-1983, some 30,000 persons who were arrested on orders of the Argentine military junta disappeared without a trace. Some of the missing persons, perhaps as many as 500, were pregnant women. Their children were adopted by those loyal to the junta but never told about their birthparents. As of the end of 2006, some 85 children have been found by their birthfamilies, though many adoptive parents have taken their children out of Argentina to avoid court-ordered reunions. Cautiva is a story about one such family reunion in 1994, though the protagonist, Cristina Quadri (played by Bárbara Lombardo), is a fictional person based on a composite of the 40 or so children whom director Gastón Biraben interviewed in making the movie. The story begins with film footage of the day when Argentina won the world soccer championship in 1979, then jumps to Cristina’s fifteenth birthday. Next, she goes to school, where a classmate, Angélica (played by Mercedes Funes), importunes her teacher concerning the injustice of the amnesty power now wielded by the Argentine president despite trial and conviction of members of the former junta for unspeakable crimes. After being summoned to take a blood test, Cristina is summoned from school to a private room in a court, where a judge informs her that her blood matches a different parentage from those who have claimed to be her parents during all her life. Shocked, she dashes out of the government building, seeking refuge with her adoptive parents, but she is again taken from them by the authorities to live with her birthgrandmother under her birthname Sofía Lombardi. In short, she feels that she is a teenager being taken captive (hence the title) by the government, just as she was from birth. In her quest to bring some order to her troubled state, her birthrelatives inform her details about her birthparents, and she learns a similar tale from Angélica after an athletic competition in which the two girls are on opposite teams. When she confronts her adoptive parents, she receives confirmation that she was adopted, and for the first time she realizes that her adoptive father, a retired police office, was an underling of the man who was responsible for the disappearance of her birthparents. Her adjustment to the new reality, the main theme of Cautiva, is a paradigm of Argentine politics today. The military, discredited in part by its defeat in the Falkland/Malvinas Islands war with Britain in 1982, gave way to a democratic government in 1983 on condition that those involved in the “dirty war” would be granted amnesty. However, in 2005 the amnesty was struck down by the Argentine Supreme Court, and Henry Kissinger, who in the film’s documentary footage is shaking hands with the head of the junta in 1978, is now wanted for questioning in Buenos Aires. Cautiva has been nominated by the Political Film Society for an award as best film exposé and best film on the need for democracy and for the observance of human rights of 2006. MH

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