Spanish with English subtitles
A powerful and moving documentary, On the Starting Line, follows Jennifer, an athlete who lives a permanent crisis of faith with the Cuban national sports federations.
The camera captures Jenniffer’s life in an unassuming, almost casual way, documenting her loving relationship with her worried mother, her close bond to her brother who is planning to leave the country, her conversations with friends about their complex feelings for Cuba and where they hope to be in ten years, and, repeatedly, training on the athletics field.
Scenes of sacrifices made to the goddess Oshun, or faces illuminated by mobile phones on ‘Wifi Square’, reveal the contrast between tradition and the modern world without explicitly addressing the topic. Jenniffer’s transformation and uncertainty about her future are also subtly revealed. She is poised on the starting blocks – and not just in the 100-meter dash. A quietly subtle and sensitive portrait of a family.
“The choices that Jenniffer, Marbelis, and Yesnier all grapple with are undoubtedly large ones, and Aldemar Matías gives viewers an honest, heartfelt look into their lives.” – Carmen Paddock, One Room With A View
“Matias achieves the miracle that his camera goes unnoticed, allowing the viewer the illusion of feeling almost a direct witness of what he sees.” – Juan Pablo Cinelli, Pagina 12
“An affectionate portrayal of a family’s experience of a culture in transition, La Arrancada presents a poignant, thought-provoking insight into Cuban life.” – Catherine Sedgwick, The Up Coming
Matias is known for his award-winning work in music videos and short films, as well as his feature films. His debut feature, The End of Darkness, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014 and was released in theaters in the United States and Brazil. The film won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in the same year.
In 2016, Matias released his second feature, The Glass Eye, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The film also won the Grand Prize at the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival and was selected for screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. His most recent feature, The Night of Death, released in 2020, won the Best Feature Award at the São Paulo International Film Festival.
Matias has also directed numerous music videos for Brazilian artists, including Anitta, Iza, and Tiago Iorc. His music videos have won awards at the MTV Video Music Awards and the Rio Music Video Festival.
“Nobody is indifferent when talking about Cuba. Opinions are always very polarized. I knew about the risk, but I wanted to film something that would help people understand that not everything is either “pro-Fidel” or anti-Fidel”. That a mother can give a “Long live the revolution” speech in the morning to her workers and in the afternoon help her son to leave the country. Or that a young woman can feel like leaving the country and at the same time worry about her career as a national athlete.
I felt it was my mission to develop this type of character and for the viewer to understand the contradiction and how these political positions work in a practical day-to-day way. In the end, Jennifer and Marbelis are from different generations, naturally, they have different aspirations, but at the same time they have to connect because of the emotional family bond they have.”
– Aldemar Matias, Director