On the Starting Line (La Arrancada): An affectionate portrayal of a family’s experience of a culture in transition
Dublin Films, producers of Aldemar Matias’s La Arrancada, feature as a film poster a beautiful Gauguin-like image of two women, introducing to us a slice of ordinary life in Cuba as an intimate piece of art – perhaps it is in the characters’ love for each other and the tiny details of the everyday; a realisation that the domestic minutiae of one small family is magical in its own right.
Visuals of a landscape and a stray dog and sounds of a sports stadium provide an evocative introduction in the opening shot. Although unglamorous, with an underdeveloped cityscape and decades-old model cars, the setting and atmosphere are vibrant, while coupled with the relaxed, laid back approach to living of the people. Intimacy created by many close-ups of colourful details and the complete naturalness of the characters gives the viewer a sense of immediacy.
An old fashioned world in which superstition reigns and traditions remain is juxtaposed with a dominance of technology. Smartphones are everywhere and used for everything, by everyone, bridging a generation gap between the elders with their deeply ingrained cultural habits, and the young looking for new adventures.
“The Cuban people had a deep, romantic love for their athletes, who were worshipped like mythology gods.” So is described their historic passion for sport. Jenniffer (Jenniffer Rodriguez Lamoth) is a 20ish runner training to be a national athlete but who begins to have doubts about her competitive aspirations. She lives with her mother Marbelis (Marbelis Lamoth Rodriquez), a strong-willed sanitation boss and doting parent, and her brother (Yesnier [Yeyo] Rodriguez Lamoth) who is leaving for Chile.
Clashes between old and new are humorous: the boy, a musician, is criticised by his mother for a song she calls rude and disrespectful to women – and to his retort that it’s “a trend now”, she exclaims “vaginas out of control are a trend?”, a comical moment in a classic parent/child struggle. Nervous about his upcoming plane travel, she naively fears “your teeth will jump out of your eyes” from the altitude, while casually maintaining communication with him on Skype.
With skilled but unobtrusive direction and cinematography and non-actors so at ease with the camera that it seems non-existent, the effect is stunningly real. An affectionate portrayal of a family’s experience of a culture in transition, La Arrancada presents a poignant, thought-provoking insight into Cuban life.
On the Starting Line (La Arrancada) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.