Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Published June 18th 2019
Director Asif Kapadia returns with new film on Maradona
How do you possibly start to sum up a man like Diego Maradona who slides between hero and villain for so many?
Of anyone equipped to take on this challenge, it's acclaimed director Asif Kapadia, who masterly shone new light on the lives of Ayrton Senna and Amy Winehouse in his Bafta-winning movie Senna and Oscar-winning documentary Amy.
The highs and the lows of Maradona's time at Napoli
But they were both dead and Maradona is still very much alive, so would this film play out in a different way about the legendary footballer?
The Diego Maradona sports documentary kicks off with a disco electronica soundtrack (Delorian Dynamite by Todd Terje) as we follow a Fiat crazily speeding around an Italian city through the opening credits.
It grabs your attention straight away and as the car zooms into a huge stadium, it quickly becomes apparent that it is Diego Maradona's arrival at his new team, Napoli.
This is 1984, when the footballer hit the headlines for moving from Barcelona to Naples' below-average team. 'I asked for a Ferrari and they gave me a Fiat', Maradona recounts over footage of jubilant scenes of adoring fans.
There's so much to tell about Maradona's life but Kapadia cleverly chooses to focus on a central part of it that accentuates the highs and lows; the calm and the chaos and ultimately the idolised footballer Maradona and the fallen man.
Naples was the city that made him into a demi-God and went on to break him too. The fall from such a height was bound to be soul shattering and it left Maradona in ruins.
Will Kapadia's film live up to his previous work of Senna and Amy?
It was in Naples that Maradona cemented his status as the world's greatest footballer. Leading Napoli from the butt of Italy's jokes to both Serie A and UEFA Cup winners, Maradona also clinched the World Cup by doing the same for his Argentinian national team.
With Kapadia's tell-tale traits of lengthy research and unrivalled access to the people at the centre of the story including Maradona and his wife, this film manages to give a very human and emotional account; while also addressing the scandals of drugs, prostitutes, the Mafia connections and an illegitimate child.
That's mainly due to it featuring over 500 hours of never-before-seen footage, which provides most of the visuals throughout this film. Footage was even found in a car boot in Buenos Aires. That could be described as a fluke of luck for most but as Kapadia is involved, it's more likely to be due to painstaking hard work at making the right connections.
The footage, mainly in Spanish with subtitles, is fantastic and like being a fly on the wall to one of the craziest lives in the world. From poverty in a village with no clean running water to the Ferrari he always wanted.
The only drawback is that while Kapadia managed to get plenty of time with Maradona for audio clips, the absence of a present-day Maradona on camera leaves a hole that cries out to be filled. The nearest we get to current times is from over 10 years ago when he appeared on an Argentinian chat show crying over his alcohol addiction.
Diego Maradona was released in cinemas in June 2019
Kapadia had said that he titled the documentary Diego Maradona, rather than either his first name or surname, because the footballer had a complex life that was split between the Maradona of his public persona and the Diego of his private life and humbler self. The Diego that became a footballer to buy his parents a house away from the slums and support his whole family for most of his life.
No stone is left unturned as the audience gets to see both sides. It's not one-sided. This is the footballer in all his glory and for all his faults (even that handball). Yet while he is shown clearly as an occasional cheat both on and off the pitch, it's the Italian people who fair worst in this film. It's ultimately key people in Naples that end up betraying him.
However, this isn't really a sad tale of missed opportunities and a career cut short, as seen in Amy and Senna, as Maradona has achieved so much and this film reflects his brilliance as a sportsman.
The only thing that comes close is a turning point in the documentary where Maradona has just celebrated Napoli winning the Championship and wants to leave the club - but isn't allowed. From that moment on, there is a clear decline in his attitude, motivation and drug habit.
What we get is another first-rate insightful documentary from Kapadia, but while it's overflowing with drama, there's a lack of the same emotion and completeness that was seen so beautifully in Senna and Amy. Maybe that's because Maradona's story still continues and with a character like this, who knows what could happen next.
Duration - 2h 10min
Languages - English and Spanish
Altitude Film Entertainment