It’s no accident that the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival movie “The Tenth Man” is a work of fiction with a documentary feel: Writer-director Daniel Burman was inspired by and included real interactions with the Buenos Aires Jewish area of Once, shot the film there with a handheld-camera feel, and filled the story with real Once residents, not actors.
The real people in the film include Usher, who manages to dominate the plot despite spending almost no time in front of the camera. The real head of the Foundation, the Jewish aid organization at the heart of the story, Usher usually is just a voice on a phone line, issuing orders to his son, Ariel, the minyan-completing 10th man referred to in the title.
Ariel (played like an Argentine Woody Allen by Alan Sabbagh) works as an economist in New York, where he is engaged to a dancer, but he regresses to youthful habits on a visit to his hometown of Buenos Aires. He runs errands for his father while longing for a chance to see him. He subsists on a snack he ate as a child. He obsesses over the emotional wounds he suffered as a schoolboy who felt secondary to his father’s communal responsibilities.
But finally, with the help of a woman who remains mute while working with the Foundation, Eva (Julieta Zylberberg), Ariel grows up so he can take his rightful place as a man in the Jewish community.
It’s a sweet, funny journey through a warm, united Jewish community.