Cautiva (Captive) (2003) 




Director:     Gaston Biraben. 

Starring:     Bárbara Lombardo (Cristina Quadri/Sofía Lombardi), Susana Campos (Elisa Dominich), Hugo Arana (Juez Barrenechea), Osvaldo Santoro (Pablo Quadri), Noemí Frenkel (Licenciada Bernstein), Lidia Catalano (Martha), Mercedes Funes (Angélica), Silvia Baylé (Adela de Quadri), Luis Gianneo (Doctor Gómez), Margara Alonso (Hermana Teresa), Roxana Berco (Ana), Marcela Ferradás (Profesora Lucrecia), Antonio Ugo (Jorge Macías, Tuco), Floria Bloise (Madre Superiora), César Bordón (Raúl), Hana Purita (Graciela de Macías), GisPle Benoldi (Susana Macías).

a young woman's search for her true identity brings her to a knowledge of terrible things that happened in Argentina under the military dictatorship backed the the United States


Spoiler Warning:   below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Final of the World Cup, Buenos Aires, 1978.  Argentina wins 3-1.  At the games is Argentine President General Videla, Admiral Massera and the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. 

Outskirts of Buenos Aires, 1994.  It is Cristina Quadri's 15th birthday celebration and naturally it is a big one. 

 At her Catholic school, a classmate named Angélica Arguedes speaks out against the Argentine military dictatorship.  For her unwelcome outburst she is sent to the principal's office.  Cristina smokes with her friend Susana.  Susana has swallowed all the right wing propaganda of her conservative countyr.  She asks "What 'disappeared'"? when Cristina mentions the subject. 

Cristina is told that mother superior wants to see her in her office.  In the office, Cristina is introduced to the assistant district attorney and a psychologist.  A certain judge Barrenechea sent them to the school with a judicial order.  Cristina is very worried about what all this means.  (Maybe she is wondering if she will just "disappear" as so many Argentines have?)  Cristina is driven to the court house to meet the federal judge.  Her first question for the judge is why don't her parents know about this meeting.  The judge says he will tell her.  He says she is old enough now and should know the truth.  Her biological parents are not the Quadris.  Her biological mother  is Leticia Dominich and her biological father is Agustin Lombardi.  They were two young architects kidnapped by security forces during the military dictatorship in 1978.  Cristina's case is one of kidnapping and appropriation of a minor.  But now she is justly claimed by her relatives.  She is introduced to her maternal grandmother Elisa.  Cristina bolts for the door, runs down the court house steps, sneaks out of the courthouse, jumps on a passing bus, gets onto a train, gets off at her station and calls her mother to be picked-up. 

It is her father who picks Cristina up at the station.  But before they can leave the station, they are grabbed by the federal police.  The policeman explains that he has an order for the detention of Mr. Quadri.  At the courthouse judge Barrenchea explains that Cristina's birth certificate is invalid because it is a false document.   Cristina will remain a ward of the state until the situation is cleared up. 

Grandmother Elisa has been looking for Sofia (Cristina's real name) since Sofia was born.  Elisa takes Cristina home with her.  From there Cristina tries to call her parents, but only gets the answering machine.  She learns that her maternal grandfather died five years ago. 

Cristina is taken to her home to pick up her things.  She is given two hours to perform the task.  Her adoptive parents are very happy to see her.  Cristina asks her parents why they don't take a blood test to clear up the matter.  They finally admit that they adopted her. 

At the house of a cousin, Cristina learns that she was born in June or July of 1978.  At her new school, Cristina plays volleyball.  There she sees Angélica.  After the match she tells Angélica that her parents "disappeared" also.  Angélica's parents were in Oletti, a clandestine prison where they were tortured. The concentration camp was in downtown Buenos Aires. 

Cristina talks with her aunt, but the woman is too emotional to say much about the disappearance.  With Elisa Cristina goes to a DNA clinic to get answers for many of her questions about the tests done in three different countries that proved she is the daughter of the Lombardis.  Cristina watches the grandmothers asserting their right to find their "disappeared" relatives.   She sees the immense tower of the "disappeared" in the square.  The tower is covered with pictures of some of those who have "disappeared". 

Angélica tells Cristina that she has found out something.  She explains that her parents were first taken to Moron Police Station.  They were then sent to the infamous "Cave".  Both Angélica's parents and Cristina's parents were in the clandestine prison next to the Olmos Penitentiary.   Witnesses numbers 3520 and 8154 saw both sets of parents there.  Angélica suggests that they do their own investigation.  Cristina agrees.  She looks through some of the literature on the "disappeared".  One interesting article was about how the United States with the approval of then Secretary of State Kissinger funded the military dictatorship in Argentina.  She looks at a picture of a smiling Kissinger having lunch with President General Videla. 

Cristina runs into her old friend Susana.  She asks Susana how long has she known that she (Cristina) was adopted.  Susana answers that she (Cristina) did not look like her parents and so she asked her parents why.  Her father told her, but asked her to never tell Cristina. 

Angélica meets with Cristina and tells her that she has found and spoken with one of the key witnesses about their parents.  The woman wants to meet Cristina.  And Cristina wants to meet the woman.  A meeting is set up and Cristina speaks with Martha, a nurse who worked in the hospital in the Olmos Penitentiary.  Cristina's mother was brought in blindfolded on a gurney.  The nurse helped deliver the baby, Cristina, but they were forbidden to talk to the detainee.  Risking severe punishment, Martha tells Cristina's mother that the baby is a girl.  Later Cristina's mother whispers to the nurse:  "Her name is Sofia Lombardi.  Bring her to me."  The next day the nurse is told to take the baby to the mother, which she does.  But the next day when she checked on the woman, she was gone.  Martha says that a man called "Glow-worm" took the baby.  Everybody feared him; he was a thug.  Cristina realizes the man she is describing is her godfather Jorge. 

Cristina goes to see her "adoptive" parents.  She asks them:  "Where are my parents?"  They are taken aback at this.  She tells them she was born on June 25, 1978, the same day the Argentines won the world soccer cup.  She then asks them:  "Did you make them disappear?"  Her father slaps her for this and tells her that he did nothing to her parents.  Mom also tells Cristina that she did not know or want to know about her parents.  Cristina goes back to grandmother Elisa's house and cries.  She asks grandmother about the "disappearance"?:   "Is it forever?"

It is estimated that around 30,000 Argentines "disappeared" under the military dictatorship.  To date, 74 of the children of the disappeared have been found.  The task of finding them continues. 


Good movie.  We see the tragedy of the "disappeared" from the viewpoint of a young girl whose biological parents were "disappeared" by the military authorities and was kidnapped and appropriated by the head of the police and his wife.  Bárbara Lombardo as Cristina Quadri/Sofía Lombardi does a great job.  She clearly shows how angry, scared, confused and conflicted Cristina/Sofia is when she finds out that her parents are not her biological parents.  Her search then for her real identity begins and we follow the detective story of how she finds out about what happened to her biological parents and how she came to be "adopted" by the Quadri family. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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