I had no idea what to expect when I took my seat to watch this film, knowing very little about Maradona and his life. I’d seen his infamous ‘hand of god’ goal and a few videos of his finest footballing moments. I was vaguely aware of the infamy that surrounded his life and name, but knew nothing of the context. This film provides an acute insight into Diego Maradona; as a footballer, but also as a person.
How does a young talented footballer end up suspended from football and addicted to cocaine? How did one penalty kick bring his entire life crumbling down? What was his relationship with the Italian gang the Giulianos? How did his personal life affect his football? What effect did his footballing success have on his personal life? There’s never a dull moment in the years this documentary leads us through, answering all these questions and so many more. It leaves no page unturned in the brutally honest narrative told through this film.
We feel and indulge in every feeling Maradona goes through. The highs and the lows, from setting up a crucial goal in Napoli’s win of the Italian league title, to the interviews about his son. The man gradually falls apart in front of our very eyes through complex and emotional scenes. His outlook changes as the years go by, his dreams fade as he loses himself to addictions and depression and we are right there with him the whole time.
This film is mesmerising, with stunning vintage videography, sometimes defying belief. From revealing close ups of Maradona’s face, to stunning aerial shots of Napoli training. We access all areas of his life and they’re presented so raw and honest, baring all into the open.
The use of archive footage brings Maradona to life; the camera shots are grainy and add a real authenticity to the events unfolding in front of us. We feel the excitement of sitting front row at the World Cup, the ecstasy as part of the team in the dressing room afterwards, and the strangling claustrophobia of drowning in the press and fans of extreme superstardom.
The film follows Maradona’s career from Argentina with Boca Juniors, to Barcelona, to Napoli. We see snippets from an interview in 2004 and some footage from 2016, providing context to this man’s extraordinary life.
All kinds of people contribute to the narrative of the film. We hear from historians and people close to Maradona. This includes his personal trainer, girlfriend, family, fellow players and others in the footballing world. It’s a fascinating variety of voices that contribute to the conversation about this man.
We see behind the scenes into all areas of his life. His childhood, family life, personal training, partying, before, during and after matches, the dressing room, being chaperoned through huge crowds, interviews with the media. We’re given intimate access to all areas, and after this experience you’re left astounded by the man, with a true understanding of the origins of the stigma that surrounds the name Maradona.
The mood starts jubilant, optimistic and enthusiastic as he was as a young player, and slowly declines as his mental state and life begin to deteriorate. I learned so much I didn’t know, and have a newfound respect for Maradona; not for his wrongdoings, but for the situation that drove him into the position he found himself in in his later career.
His personality shines through this film; his behaviour is unforgettable and shocking at times, yet we also see him at his most vulnerable. The documentary also showcases his mind-blowing footballing ability through spectacular highlights reels.
We feel his joy, we feel his pain, and we see everything that leads up to those feelings. We discover so many intricacies of his life, from his interactions with a powerful Italian crime family, to his deep unrest with Naples, his rise to God status amongst the Neapolitans and his fall to the most hated man in Italy.
Maradona is shown exactly as he was depicted at each era of his life; from star to villain and back again, for club and country alike. The footage shows an unfiltered look at his life from every angle, giving us a deeply personal look at his life.
If you get a chance to watch this brilliant documentary I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s educational, fascinating and interesting and is essential viewing for football fans and anyone intrigued by Maradona’s life.
Documentary, Biography | UK, 2019 | 14th June 2019 (UK) | Altitude Films | Dir.Asif Kapadia