Cautiva Delights with Nice Acting & Theme

After being traumatized recently by the hideously awful Tamil film Billa, we were desperately in need of some relief.

Fortunately, we stumbled upon a fine Argentine film Cautiva (2003) from our long neglected Netflix trove.

Set in Argentina of the early 1990s after the dirty deeds of the last military dictatorship were exposed, this Spanish film is the story of a teenage girl who one day discovers that her parents are not her biological parents after a court magistrate informs her about the circumstances of her birth and her real parents.

If Spanish is all Greek to you, have no fear because Cautiva comes with English sub-titles. 

As those who still retain the quaint habit of reading know, the military dictatorship of 1976-1983 marked a dark era in Argentina when tens of thousands of people “disappeared” never to be seen again. Most were tortured and killed by the military and buried in unmarked graves.

One of the fine books highlighting this dark watershed in Argentine history is Jacobo Timerman’s Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number.

As Cautiva makes poignantly clear, sometimes the young babies of those who “disappeared” were passed on to childless couples close to the military regime.

Besides crisp direction by Gaston Birben (his first film as director) and the gripping narrative, Cautiva also delights us with an amazing performance by Barbara Lombardo as the young 15/16- year-old girl Cristina/Sofia abruptly taken from her Catholic convent school one day to live with a grandmother she’s never known before.

While it’s Barbara Lombardo who ably carries this movie on her young shoulders, she is well supported by Mercedes Funes, who plays Angelica (the girl who helps Cristina uncover the details behind her parents’ disappearance), the late Susana Campos (who plays Cristina’s grandmother Elisa) and others.

Cautiva is a message to pusillanimous Indian moviemakers that there is a world out there beyond love if only they cared to look.

Sadly, most Indian movies, whether Bollywood, Kollywood or Tollywood, focus ad nauseum, ad infinitum on love themes oblivious of the fact that there are so many other interesting subjects in the world that are worth exploring.

The only jarring note in Cautiva was the nude scene in the girls bathroom after the volleyball match. We felt it was completely gratuitous.

With movies like Cautiva, Blame it on Fidel or Pan’s Labyrinth, language is no barrier to enjoyment of the movie.

Cautiva went on to deservedly receive many awards.

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