I saw Captive, the debut feature from Gaston Biraben, at New Directors/New Films last night; it's a subtly powerful movie that gripped the sellout audience at MoMA Gramercy.
Captive is a fictionalized telling of real events, a surreal, politically charged story of, "You're adopted...And then some." A 15-year old Buenos Aires girl's life is turned upsidedown when she learns her real parents were among The Disappeared, the tens of thousands of Argentines kidnapped, tortured and killed by the country's military dictatorship in the 70's. On top of dealing with a new family of strangers, the girl has to confront the chilling circumstances of her birth and her adoptive parents' possible complicity in the systematic crimes of the junta.
By keeping a restrained, naturalistic focus on a the experience of one girl, the film tackles the third rail of the Argentine psyche--accountability for The Disappeared--with tremendous skill, and without devolving into political agitprop. Biraben coaxed a highly effective, intuitive performance from his star, Barbara Lombardo, which holds the film together.
Almost the entire audience stayed for the Q&A. Sensing, perhaps, Captive's potential for making great political waves, many questions were about where the film has shown and what was the reaction. It turns out ND/NF is one of the first screenings for Captive, so the impact is still to come. [The film was also at Palm Springs and San Sebastian, where it won the Horizontes award for Latin American films.]
This all serves as setup for the improbably story of Biraben's getting the film made in the first place, and how he scored a cameo that elicited surprised howls of recognition from the New York audience. I spoke with Gaston and his co-producer/editor Tammis Chandler after the Q&A.