In his lovely new film, Argentine director Daniel Burman mixes reality with fiction in inventive ways. In Buenos Aires, there’s a Jewish aid foundation run by a legendary figure known only as Usher. Burman sends the fictional Ariel (Alan Sabbagh, grand) on a one-week trip from New York to Buenos Aires to visit his father, Usher (playing himself), whom he both reveres and resents.
The Tenth Man takes place in the week leading up to the Purim holiday, and as the days pass, Ariel gives up on the idea that he’ll see Usher in person. His father communicates via cellphone and sends him on a succession of foundation errands, from bringing shoes to a hospitalized youth to negotiating with an angry butcher.
Filming on location and using real-world foundation locals, Burman has created a film that never feels like a documentary, yet always feels true. On the crowded city streets, Ariel’s phone is snatched from his hand, and the moment doesn’t feel scripted. Maybe it wasn’t, maybe it just happened, and that naturalistic sense extends to Ariel’s plotted journey, which includes a potential romance.
More resonantly, Ariel keeps running up against his Jewish heritage, which he’d largely rejected when he left Argentina. By Purim, Ariel may not be religious, but he’s fully engaged with the world — much like his father.
The Tenth Man
Directed by Daniel Burman
Opens August 5, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas