Arts & Culture Film on Argentine Jewish Family Competing for Top Prize in Berlin

The story of a Jewish family working at a tiny commercial gallery in Buenos Aires has made its way to Berlin.

Daniel Burman’s “A Lost Embrace” is one of 26 movies competing for the main prize in the prestigious Berlin Film Festival, which began Feb. 5 and runs through Feb. 15.

“I will be in the same category as Ken Loach or Erich Rohmer. It’s breathtaking,” Burman, 30, an emerging director of what is known as the New Argentine Cinema, told JTA in an interview before departing for Germany.

Burman’s film tells the story of Elias Makaroff, who leaves for Israel to fight in the Yom Kippur War right after attending the brit mila of his second son, Ariel.

The father never returns from the war. The film then finds Ariel as an adult, still waiting for the embrace of his father. Ariel works at his mother’s struggling underwear shop in a highly Jewish neighborhood of Buenos Aires known as Once.

“The film shows a dilemma: There is a man that gives his life for an ideal but is unable to sustain his own family,” said Burman, who is married and has a 15-month-old boy, Eloy. “I am not talking in economic terms, but in what involves affection. The family is a strangely difficult enterprise,”

As for his own life, Burman is the son of two lawyers, and his brother is a lawyer as well.

“I’m the poet of the family,” he said with a laugh. “But I’m not some airy dreamer. I own a company.”

To find appropriate actors, Burman held auditions among Jews not involved with theater. The cast includes a dentist and vendors from real shops in Once, the neighborhood where Burman was born and raised.

This is the third time Burman has exhibited a film at the Berlin festival, but the first time his film is in competition for the top prize.

Two of Burman’s prior works take an in-depth look at Argentine Jewish life. “Waiting for the Messiah” — which won international awards — is about a young Jew eager to explore the wider world outside the Jewish community.

Burman also made a documentary, “Seven Days in Once,” that was shown in several U.S. schools.

Other of his films include “A Chrysanthemum Burst in Cincoesquinas” and “Every Stewardess Goes to Heaven,” both of which were shown at international film festivals. The latter movie won the Film Makers Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001.

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