The original title is El Rey del Once, literally The King of Eleven. Eleven ("once" in Spanish) is the name of a quarter of Buenos Aires around Plaza Once de Septiembre (Square September Eleven) named after a happening in Argentine history on September 11, 1888. This quarter is home to numerous Jewish families that settled there in the first half of the 20th. century and after. It is not a ghetto in any sense of the word; it looks like any middle class neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The title has been translated to The Tenth Man, not a bad choice since this refers to the need for ten men in some Jewish rituals. This plays a role in the movie.
The protagonist, Ariel, has lived for years abroad and is presently in Buenos Aires. He is estranged from his father Usher, and wishes to reconnect with him. We learn from flashbacks that Usher was an absentee father, although this alone doesn't explain the extreme father/son tension that makes Usher avoid Ariel or prevents him from looking Ariel in the face. Usher is The King of Eleven, a neighborhood wheeler-dealer bent not on personal success but on helping the quarter's less advantaged neighbors (he seems to spend all his time in this endeavor). The name of the actor that impersonates Usher is Usher Barilka, so we may assume the character is real or has real components.
A recurring theme in some of Daniel Burman's movies (Waiting for the Messiah 2000, Lost Embrace 2004, Family Law 2006) is the place of a young man in the Jewish community of Buenos Aires and his conflicted relation with his father. Burman retakes the subject in the present film in a more austere, almost documentary fashion. Ariel, the young man, faces a choice, One of the alternatives is a life with everyday acts determined by precise although illogical rituals (this applies to other religions as well) but providing an identity, a sense of community and an opportunity for caring for each other (although it also implies isolation from society at large). The other choice is that of freedom, with all its attendant dangers and sometimes elusive rewards. There is no clear cut answer to this dilemma and Burman doesn't attempt to provide one. As in real life, we are not given complete information about the characters' interaction: we hear that Ariel's mother took the second choice, but we get to know nothing about her relationship with Usher or with Ariel. The movie lets much for the viewer to imagine. A fascinating film.
After years away, Ariel (Alan Sabbagh) returns to Buenos Aires seeking to reconnect with his father Usher, who founded a charity foundation in Once, the city's bustling Jewish district where Ariel spent his youth. In the process of trying to meet his father and getting entangled in his charitable commitments, Ariel meets Eva (Julieta Zylberberg, Wild Tales). Eva's independent spirit motivates Ariel to come to grips with the traditions that once divided him and his father.—Official site
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