Yesterday the movie club had one of its frequent outings. We had every intention of checking out Scorsese's The Departed but it sold out because Bond (I told you about Daniel Craig) sold out too.
Tip for moviegoers: the only reasonable time in NY to go to a movie without drama is Monday thru Wednesday. Or if you are unemployed, the 4 pm shows. The rest is a pain in the ass.
In any case, we ended up at the lovely Cinema Village and rushed in to see Cautiva, an Argentinian movie we knew nothing about. I like not to know anything about what I am about to watch. Cautiva (Captive) is a small, low budget movie about one of the evil corollaries of the Argentinian Dirty War in the 70's when a despicable Military Junta ruled Argentina through terror and it "disappeared" around 30,000 citizens, all accused of subversion or communism, most of them young people with long hair and antifascist leanings.
Cautiva starts out with real footage of the goal that Argentina scored in its home turf against Holland to win the Soccer World Cup in 1978. The joy of that goal immediately sours and turns sinister as the camera pans to General Videla and other members of the Junta and their friend Henry Kissinger, who never met a fascist dictator he didn't like. Now, it was known around the world that the Junta had an atrocious human rights record but it is shocking today to see how they literally got away with murder and were able to host the World Cup with total brazeness. But I guess if Hitler could host the Olympics in 1936 and China, a country with an abysmal human rights record, is hosting the next ones, anything goes.
The military junta in Argentina committed terrible atrocities against its own citizens. They read the handbook by the nazis and tried their best to improve upon the torture methods, and the regime of terror and murder. They had clandestine prisons and torture chambers in the middle of Buenos Aires. One of the things they did, like the Nazis, was to deliver the newborn babies of imprisoned pregnant women and give them for adoption to families in the military or the police. Cautiva is the story of a teenager raised by a family who stole her from her imprisoned mother. It is a powerful, blunt film, with such a harrowing story that it wisely just tells it, without much embellishment or editorializing.
At the beginning the acting seemed a bit stilted, and I was afraid that the movie would turn into a tango. (Those of us who are not Argentines, use the word tango to denote a tantrum or a huge melodrama). But the film gained in intensity as the teenager is forced to confront the truth about her loving family. Cautiva explores the wounds, still open, that the disappearance of 30,000 souls has left in Argentina's psyche, and the deep ideological rifts and the hatred between the extreme right and the left. At the end, the movie says that over 70 children have been found out to have been "appropriated" illegally by others. Also, most of the police and military who committed the atrocities are under house arrest, at the very worst, or free to come and go as they please, because they were granted a general amnesty after the demise of the Junta. I remember Argentinian friends of mine in the 80's talking about the "Ley de Obediencia Debida", something that translates loosely as Law of Due Obedience, which basically exonerated many criminals on the grounds that they were obeying orders from above.