English Title: Lost Embrace
Original Title: El abrazo partido
Country of Origin: Argentina
Studio: DB Cine, CinemArt, Fond Sud Cinéma, INCAA
Director: Daniel Burman
Producer(s): Diego Ducobsky
Cinematographer: Ramiro Civita
Art Director: María Eugenia Sueiro
Editor: Alejandro Broderson
Runtime: 99 minutes
Genre: Modern Families
Colour, 35 mm
Ariel Makaroff is in his early twenties and still lives at home with his mother, Sonia. Together they run a lingerie store in an arcade located in the Buenos Aires Jewish neighbourhood of Once. Ariel, who narrates the film, introduces the other arcade store owners as well as his brother Joseph, who wanted to be a rabbi but ended up being a business owner. In an attempt to change his life, Ariel wants to emigrate to Poland, the land of his ancestors. As he searches for the documents required to apply for his Polish passport, he starts to dwell obsessively on his father’s absence. He searches for family tapes and for anecdotes of his father, Elías, who left his family when Ariel was a baby. The official version of Elías’s departure is that he migrated to fight in the Yom Kippur War (6-25 October, 1973), but Ariel’s investigation uncovers another reason for his father’s leaving and absence.
Lost Embrace was Argentina’s official entry for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards. It won first place as the best original screenplay in the New Latin American Cinema in Havana in 2002. It also won two Silver Bears at the Berlin Film Festival and three awards – Best Director, Best Film and Best Screenplay – at the Lleida Film Festival. These impressive accolades established the 29-year-old Burman as a celebrated filmmaker in Argentina and abroad. His films have been characterised as ‘independent auteurist cinema’ following in the footsteps of Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma and Woody Allen. Burman has also been part of the New Argentine Cinema. The script for Lost Embrace was a collaborative endeavour between Jewish-Argentine writer Marcelo Birmajer and Burman himself. Stylistically, the director relied on Ariel’s voice-over, hand-held cameras and abrupt editing to depict the fast rhythm of life in Buenos Aires.
Lost Embrace is the second part of the ‘Ariel trilogy’, which began with Esperando al Mesías/Waiting for the Messiah (2000) and was completed with Derecho de familia/Family Law (2006). These films rely heavily on the director’s background in Once. In this trilogy, Uruguayan actor Daniel Hendler plays the main character, Ariel, the director’s alter ego. As Jewish-Argentine youths, the different Ariels search for their own identity while questioning tradition in a rapidly changing world. Thus, despite the fact that Burman’s Ariels are marked ethnically as Jewish, they are also the embodiment of typical contemporary porteños. Of particularly importance in the definition of these young men is their relationship with their fathers. In Lost Embrace, Ariel’s father is absent, a fact that negatively impacts the son’s identity. As Ariel strives to learn more about his father, he also confronts diverse and conflicting versions of his family’s past.
Burman’s candid portrayal of a young, disoriented Jewish-Argentine was well received because Ariel represented the many Argentines who, after the 2001 economic crisis, were looking for European ancestors as a way to escape the country’s devastating economic situation. The film’s setting in an arcade which has seen better days allegorises Argentina’s dilapidated state. Lost Embrace presents a humorous and ironic depiction of the Jewish-Argentine community. Burman also presents characters not typically seen in Argentine cinema, such as recently arrived Koreans, Ukrainians and Peruvians who provide a different perspective to Ariel’s desire to migrate. Nevertheless, the film struck a chord with audiences and critics and features two particularly superb performances: Aizenberg’s as an overprotective Jewish mother and Londner’s as Ariel’s grandmother.
Author of this review: Gabriela Copertari