Standing Start, a 12-minute documentary short-film on track bicycle racing, uses narration adapted from Homer’s The Odyssey to frame the significance of training, pursuit, and competition.
Like Douglas Gordon’s Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait, this riveting film from the Scottish Documentary Institute looks at the some of life’s larger questions through an intimate and aesthetic portrayal of sport. One man stands for all men through most of the film, and only in the sparse scenes of a multi-person race are we reminded that this struggle for strength, explosive strength, has meaning because of the community of others whose training is just as steadfast.
Track racing is a beautiful marriage of the human and the machine. In contrast to the stories of judgment and salvation told in the Terminator films, Standing Start presents a story about the very human use of machines to realize full human potentiality. Instead of humans-vs.machines, it is a story of humans with machines.
I was able to view the film, which is still on the festival circuit, last summer at the Los Angeles Bicycle Film festival. If you get a chance, check it out. It’s among the most carefully measured 12 minutes of film you’ll ever watch.