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Burman's Law Invoked at Makor

Burman regular Daniel Hendler (R) with Eloy Burman in Family Law (Photos: Celluloid Dreams)

The recent years have brought a revival in Argentinean cinema -- a new trend of state-sponsored films and what critics call “New Wave” filmmakers like Lucretia Martel and Fabian Bielinsky. Thirty-three-year-old director Daniel Burman is also part of the movement, known for mixing professional actors with ordinary people with an aesthetic often compared to Dogme 95.

Back in New York for the first time since 2005, Burman presented his bittersweet new comedy Family Law recently at Makor (it opens Friday at IFC Center). Like Martel's La Cienega, Family Law portrays not the typical South American landscape but the dilemmas of the bourgeoisie in Buenos Aires -- related as a collection of absurd vignettes and incongruous situations supported by an ironic voice over. “I bring something of the Argentinean society to the world through this film," Burman told the Upper West Side crowd. "Various truths and a collective unconscious transit through me.”

The recurring character of two of his previous films, Ariel Perelman (who to some extent represents Burman himself) has evolved from a 30-ish slacker to becoming a lawyer like his father, Ariel Perelman Sr. “I’m interested in misunderstandings,” said the director. “At home they call me and my dad by our last name, which can be confusing because there’s two of us. This brings us to the problem of legacy.” (Not coincidentally, both of Burman's parents are lawyers as well.)

(L-R) Filmmaker Daniel Burman with star Daniel Hendler on the set of Family Law

Another obvious continuity in Burman's filmography is his latest reteaming with Uruguayan actor Daniel Hendler (Ariel), following him on his journey into adulthood. Family Law also resembles his previous film, 2004's Lost Embrace, confirming Burman’s obsession and melancholic rapport with a distant, absent (or here, dying) fatherly figure. “The moment in which the film takes place is not the typical crisis you’ve seen in movies," Burman said. “It’s a marriage crisis after the birth of the first child -- a moment of confusion and doubt, of trying to make up for the lost time. The husband has an identity crisis of his own which he cannot share with his partner because it has to do with his relationship to his father."

Burman, the father of a 3-year-old, said the inspiration for the film comes in part from stories he has heard and stories from his own life. “In his attempts to be a good father, Ariel sends his son to a Swiss kindergarten, not really knowing why. The story of the Swiss school is inspired by the fact that I was going to put my son in a German school, and the brochure said they would teach kids 'German values.' And I was like, 'What German values?' ”

But the audience at Makor was disturbed, wondering whether the characters in the film were really Jewish. “I didn’t know that [the father] was going to be Jewish,” said Burman. “It didn’t come in the script until I was burying him. But the conflict in the film has nothing to do with his Jewish identity. Often we see films about Jews who have 'Jewish' problems. We need to realize some of our problems have nothing to do with Jewishness.” -- Clementine Gallot

Posted at December 6, 2006 10:23 AM

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