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indieWIRE INTERVIEW: Daniel Burman, director of “Family Law” (Derecho de familia)

indieWIRE INTERVIEW: Daniel Burman, director of "Family Law" (Derecho de familia)

Argentine director Daniel Burman was born in Buenos Aires in 1973 and counts five features titles under his belt, including 2004’s “El Abrazo partido” (Lost Embrace), which earned the best film prize at the Bangkok International Film Festival and the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. He also won the NHK Award at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival for “Every Stewardess Goes to Heaven.” His latest film, “Derecho de familia” (Family Law), which screened this year at AFI Fest and the Chicago International Film Festival, centers around a father and son, both of whom practice law. The son has difficulty finding his own identity because his father, who he works with and is a “perfect lawyer,” places high expectations on his offspring. But his father’s death suddenly thrusts the son into shaping his own character. In his discussion with indieWIRE, Burman puts filmmaking in its proper place, talks about the relationship with his own son and what makes us free… IFC First Take opens the film in limited release Friday, December 8.

Please share some info on your general background…

I’m 33 years old and a producer, director and screenwriter. I have five full length features as a director and 10 as producer. I’m a founding member of the Academy of Argentinean Cinema, and I’m married with two Jewish children. I hate sports and nighttime parties with cigarette smoke. I love breakfast in the morning while reading the newspaper in silence.

What initially attracted you to filmmaking, and how has that interest evolved during your career?

I’ve always seen film as a tool, like a raft which carries a story from one bank to another–a communication that takes the characters from me, to the other side, the audience. I don’t know how I became a filmmaker. I studied law and I wanted to be a lawyer. I don’t know how it happened but I know that this work is extraordinary.

Are there other aspects of filmmaking that you would still like to explore?

Yes, actually I’m opening three screening rooms in Argentina to show independent films. Film distribution and film exhibition interest me.

Also, once in my life, I would like to not be involved in the production of a film, to work like a contracted director. If it rains or a helicopter falls on the filming equipment then someone else pays the damages. This may seem strange but after directing, writing and producing my five films, I would like to dedicate myself exclusively to one job (the one that I like the most).

Please talk about how the initial idea for “Family Law” came about…

It interested to me to explore the construction of paternity, and to work with the relationship between this father and son, this understood [dynamic], so common in the love between father and son.
It also interested me to explore a very particular moment in the trajectory of this hero, which is the parabola of paternity. It is the moment of the life where one is deciding if one is going to turn into his father or the exact opposite. I always begin my scripts with one long voiceover in the voice of the main character, that tells (or tells me) his point of view on life, his conflict and where he wants to go.

Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film, including your influences (if any), as well as your overall goals for the project?

My objectives were to try to make visible the invisible–to discover in daily life, the keys to our most basic existential conflicts. I’m convinced that in the small details of our daily lives, the greatest existential dilemmas are hidden. The relationship which we establish with our parents is an absolute seal on our consciences and conditions our relationships with our children. In this game, in this complex and universal transition, one supports the chain of the life.

I don’t have goals when I make a film, except to create as faithfully as possible the story I wanted to tell, and that the sensations that provoked me to tell the story are also caused when reading the script.

Who are some of the creative influences that have had the biggest impact on you?

Truffaut and Woody Allen are the auteurs I most admire. I don’t know if they have influenced my development (I hope so) but they are great references. As a writer, without a doubt, the work of Joseph Campbell has been essential to me.

What are your interests outside of film?

All of my interests are outside of film. Making films is my job, but I enjoy real life more. Eating ice cream with my kids, making love to my wife, sitting in the armchair in my house, observing, and enjoying all that surrounds me that I earned through this marvellous profession.

What general advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers?

To not believe in the dogmas, that it’s not important what lens or camera you use or if you use the latest film by Fuji. The only thing that transcends is the story, the emotion and the life that we give our characters. And that vanity is our greatest enemy. It is important to remember that there is nothing more insignificant than a movie director. And that there are thousands like us–remembering our own insignificance makes us free.

Will you please share an achievement from your career so far that you are most proud of?

To film with my son. To see him in the film makes me more emotional than any award, criticism or applause. It’s worth the pain of being a director for that.

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