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Once Again

An Argentinian filmmaker sets his lens on home

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Daniel Burman, a 31-year-old Argentinian filmmaker, has been focusing on men coming of age, from the young Che of The Motorcycle Diaries, which he co-produced, to Ariel Makaroff, the disaffected hero of Lost Embrace. This latest film, which opens here next week and is Argentina’s official entry for the Academy Awards, returns to El Once, Buenos Aires’ 11th District and Burman’s home turf.

A college dropout selling women’s lingerie in his mother’s shop, Ariel aims to escape his inglorious reality by moving back to Poland, his grandparents’ native land. But he stalls, secretly hoping for the return of the father who abandoned him to fight in the Yom Kippur War.

Ariel is a study in contradiction. Applying for citizenship at the Polish embassy, he goes to comic lengths to ignore a consul’s patent discomfort with “an Israelite.” But even as he pesters his grandmother, a survivor, for documents proving her Polish citizenship, he doubts his honor. “Am I like my father?” he asks her. “There’s a certain resemblance.”

There’s also a certain resemblance between this scene and the life of its director. Burman, whose grandparents came from Poland, holds a Polish passport; ever since Argentina’s economy collapsed, EU credentials are in demand. For now, it remains in the drawer. Would he ever use it? “Only in the case that I couldn’t enter and leave the country as an Argentinian,” admits Burman, whose 2002 documentary Seven Days in Once considers the effect of the AMIA bombing on his childhood neighborhood. “But I don’t really want to imagine that there would be such a situation.”

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Once Again

An Argentinian filmmaker sets his lens on home

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