‘Latin America’s Woody Allen’on Jewish life in Argentina


At 33, Daniel Burman already has five feature films to his name and he was a co-producer of the much-acclaimed “Motorcycle Diaries.”

He released his first film at the age of 20, but “Lost Embrace” is the work where his talents really came into their own.

“I’m pretty happy with the outcome,” says Burman who, like the protagonist Ariel, grew up in the Jewish community in Buenos Aires. “Right now, the filmmaking climate in Argentina is probably at its best in many years. More than 50 films are made per year and the government subsidizes production costs. I’m thankful to be working there at this time. Before, it was a tough job for directors to get anything made.”

He winced as he said that, for Burman has had bad toothache since he arrived in Tokyo. But doped on painkillers and nibbling on bananas, he stuck to his schedule of nonstop interviews (“I have no choice. I couldn’t let the distributors down!”) and expressed a surprise of how firmly people in Japan were dedicated to work and timetables.

“We do things differently in Buenos Aires. This is an eye-opening experience for me.” He hastened to add, however, that he wasn’t like Ariel. “He’s especially laid-back, even for Buenos Aires.”

Ariel may be laid-back, but he’s also troubled a lot of the time. And Buenos Aires has the largest number of therapists in the world.

In Buenos Aires, we say that even angst and stress are things to enjoy. We love talking about our problems, and pouring our hearts out to specialists. I guess that’s the big difference with therapy in say, the U.S. There, people will assume you have a problem and express their sympathy. In Buenos Aires, it’s almost a fact of life to have therapy so everyone thinks little of it.

Ariel is 30, unemployed and living with his mother. Is this a common thing in Buenos Aires?

I won’t say that it’s the norm, but it happens: unemployment is high and many single people, whether they’re working or not, live with their parents. It makes more economic sense, but it also fosters strong family ties.

How is the Jewish community in Buenos Aires different from the one in, say, New York?

I think the sole and most visible difference is that the Jewish people in New York are more affluent. Apart from that, I think values are pretty much the same.

You’ve been compared to Woody Allen. Do you like his films?

Yes, and of course it fills me with joy to be compared to Allen. Still, I think our filming styles are very different. And I’m not sure I’d want to concentrate on love relationships like he does.

The whole of this movie was shot inside El Once, but I’ve heard that parts of the district are now being torn down for redevelopment. How do you feel about that?

People think I’m very sentimental about the area because of my movies. But the truth is, I’m not that nostalgic, I don’t want to preserve it at all cost. Still, it’s sad to see the old merchants and the small, family-run outlets disappear. I think that family-run businesses deserve more consideration, since nowadays everything goes corporate.

Would you describe yourself as a political director?

Let me put it this way, I think my job as a filmmaker is to record the collective memory of a certain community, rather than focus on a personal lives and experiences. Ariel is an individual, but his dilemma and way of thinking is always political and a common one among the people of his community and generation. Still, I wouldn’t discuss politics outright. I’d much prefer my political views to be revealed gradually and in bits, through certain scenes or dialogue.