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Cristina's life is thrown into turmoil when she is suddenly escorted from her strict Catholic school in Buenos Aires and told that she is really Sofía Lombardi, the daughter of activists who disappeared in the '70s. Questioning everything she once thought true, Cristina embarks on a journey to find her true identity. Meeting others like herself, the young girl soon discovers the real-life horrors of Argentina's relatively recent past and the nightmare that claimed tens of thousands of lives during the country's "dirty war." Written by
Koch Lorber Films
The Continuing Mystery of Argentina's 'Desaparecidos'
CAUTIVA ('Captive') is a very effective film by young writer/director Gaston Biraben who has taken to task the impact of Argentina's 'Dirty War' of the late 1970s and succeeds in making a very personal story out of the horror of the 'desaparecidos' tragedy that stole from Argentina some of its brightest minds - and 'reassigned' the children of these 'disappeared ones' who were born in the prisons to political friends of the dictatorship. While the concept is gruesome as history and as content, Biraben manages to recreate that terrifying period of time in terms of the present. This retrospective study makes a huge impact.
Cristina Quadri (the deeply impressive Bárbara Lombardo) lives with her parents in Buenos Aires, attending a Catholic girls' school, seemingly a happy young teenager. One regular day she is called to the principal's office and told she must visit a judge, a frightening concept for a young girl who is forced to go without informing her parents. The judge informs her that she is not 'Cristina Quadri' but instead 'Sofía Lombardi', the daughter of a couple who 'disappeared' in 1978 as political prisoners. A recent blood test Cristina/Sofia thought was a follow-up for a post-op check was actually a test to match her blood with that of the newly discovered true parents' family. Cristina, stunned by her lack of true identity, confronts her 'adopted parents' and struggles with the officials who insist she be returned to her blood relatives. Cristina becomes close to another 'adopted' girl and the two explore their roots, finding that they were born in prisons and then given to police officials to be placed in homes. The transition from adopted to blood family is the path the film explores: despite the comforts of present life the girls must know their origins to fully realize their identities.
The cast is uniformly strong, the concept of the film works well as Biraben snaps us back and forth between the World Cup Soccer Game in Buenos Aires in 1978 that contrasts so gravely with the concurrent underground disappearance of the intellects of the country, and the performance by Lombardo holds the credibility of the story well. There is a fine music score by José Luis Castiñeira de Dios that combines a suite for cello and piano with elements from Mozart's Requiem very effectively. This film has been awarded many prizes since its appearance in 2003: the prizes are justly deserved. Highly recommended viewing. Grady Harp
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