PJFF Film: “The Tenth Man”

Regarded as Argentina’s Woody Allen, writer-director Daniel Burman (“Lost Embrace”) has constructed a seductively humorous film drawing from his own memories of coming of age in Buenos Aires’ heavily populated 11th district (el Once). Winning Best Actor and the nomination for Best International Narrative Feature at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, “The Tenth Man,” in Spanish with English subtitles, is Burman’s 16th film to date and his second feature to be shot on location in the Argentinian capital’s oldest Jewish neighborhood.

Just in time for the Purim holiday and a pending meat shortage, Ariel (Alan Sabbagh), an affable and slightly pudgy New York City economist who lives with his dancer girlfriend, returns to his Argentinian-Jewish roots in Buenos Aires. Usher, Ariel’s father and the macher behind the Foundation (the Jewish welfare organization in el Once) — while only reachable by phone — eagerly summons his son for favors and random errands. Running the Foundation in his godlike manner, Usher implores Ariel to work with Eva, his nearly mute Orthodox assistant. Amidst much chaos, the two develop an unusual friendship that arouses Ariel’s piety and inspires him to revisit the Jewish identity he long left behind.

Daniel Ortega’s documentary-style camerawork and Margarita Tambornino’s seamless production design aid Burman in rendering a realistic portrait of contemporary Jewish life in Buenos Aires. Burman’s wryly amusing sense of humor and knack for illuminating heavy topics with ease make “The Tenth Man” among the most enjoyable festival films this year.

Guest Speaker at the Screening: Gary Kramer, film critic for Salon.com, Slant, Fandor, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News, San Francisco Bay Times, Cineaste and Film International

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