The Tenth Man
starring Alan Sabbagh
directed by Daniel Burman
Here’s a hilarious and dimensional foreign-gem that excels mostly by showing the action of the characters in-between words. The film, based in Argentina and told in Spanish, Hebrew, and Yiddish, comes off seemingly simplistic. We watch our central character Ariel (Alan Sabbagh, who rightfully won the best actor award at this years Tribeca Film Festival) as he returns to his home city Buenos Aires after being away for years, hoping to reconnect with his father along with his Jewish roots, and in the process gets tangled into multiple “good samaritan” gestures along the way. Ariel’s father has recently put together a charity foundation in Ariel’s youthful town of Once, a Jewish district in the city, and it becomes evident that he is simply avoiding meeting with Ariel and instead filling his hands with different community projects. In the process, we see and witness Ariel as a person much like many of us, carrying with him a sense of loss identity, struggling to know where he belongs. If he ever actually connects with his father Usher, that’s what gives the film a great sense of mystery for the viewer to behold.
It could be a set-up for typical soap-opera disaster, but thanks to gifted-actor Alan Sabbagh, he’s the perfect canvas for us to watch and put ourselves on, while also delivering, at times, classical deadpan results. You simply can’t take your eyes off of him. A scene involving him and a meat truck (don’t ask) is one that will leave you howling. Ditto a scene with Ariel wondering around with his luggage and looking for something kosher to eat (it wasn’t caught with a Star of David?). Not everything is laughable. But along with Alan, all of the other cast act to perfection, never making a false move as the film juggles different topics and feels. The images themselves, casted with whimsical magic by cinematographer Daniel Ortega, rank with some of the year’s very best.
And then there’s director Daniel Burman. With his acute sense of detail with his actors and their characters, he weilds a rather quiet film, that still has the power to rock multitudes of ages. What The Tenth Man says about identity, religion, doing well to others, and knowing thyself, is more than any of this summer’s countless duds have said about anything. I wouldn’t just say Hollywood, heads up. I would even say planet Earth, heads up.