Were it not for the closing credits, it would be easy to mistake La Arrancada for fiction instead of fact. Set in modern day Cuba, it follows Jenniffer – an aspiring professional athlete – as an injury leads her to question her commitment to sport. Her mother Marbelis, who works tirelessly in public sanitation, disapproves of her daughter’s change of heart after having poured tireless and countless hours into supporting her skills. Complicating matters is Jenniffer’s brother Yesnier’s move abroad – a move which she and her friends dream of replicating.
La Arrancada marks Aldemar Matias’ feature debut, although the documentary is barely over an hour long. Instead of narrating the family’s situation and backstory, the facts reveal themselves through ordinary conversations and everyday interactions, as if scripted (albeit extraordinarily naturalistically). This indirect approach allows events and conflicts to emerge organically, almost imperceptibly, and is strongest when subtly illustrating Jenniffer’s cultural crossroads: she and her mother sacrifice fruit to the goddess Oshun while exploring universities abroad on the internet, both choices existing harmoniously and unjudged.
The piece is a place and character microstudy; viewers get a keen sense of Jenniffer’s home, family, and athletic training and some insight into her future aspirations, but little concerning relationships aside from her mother or the beginnings of her athletics passion. This immediacy is likely all that can be justly covered in a leisurely-paced film of this length, but the stasis sometimes fails to hold focus, creating a slightly unfinished feel.
By the documentary’s conclusion, no hard decisions have been made. The choices that Jenniffer, Marbelis, and Yesnier all grapple with are undoubtedly large ones, and Matias gives viewers an honest, heartfelt look into their lives. However, the plot’s lack of inertia – while honest to Jenniffer’s and her family’s story – often allows the focus to wander.
CAST: Jenniffer Rodriguez Lamoth, Marbelis Lamoth Rodriguez, Yesnier (Yeyo) Rodriguez Lamoth
DIRECTOR: Aldemar Matias
WRITERS: Aldemar Matias, David Hurst
SYNOPSIS: After an injury, a young woman considers quitting sports and leaving Cuba.