Film: Diego Maradona
Director: Asif Kapadia
Rating: * * * *
The Neapolitans treated him like God placing his photo alongside images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and San Gennaro, Naples' patron saint. When he fell from grace, he was hated in equal measure. As a magazine headline blared, "Lucifer lives in Naples".
Who? Diego Maradona. The legendary, the incomparable, and peerless subject of Oscar winning film-maker Asif Kapadia's brilliant new documentary after his celebrated turns on the singer Amy Winehouse and racer Ayrton Senna.
Embellished with first-person reminiscences, interviews with his family and co-players, Maradona's personal videos and photos,and rare archival footage culled from never-before-seen footage, the feature length documentary in Spanish and Italian with English subtitles, is an authentic portrait of the soccer player whose name is enshrined in the sport's Hall of Fame.
Racist epithets were often hurled at Pele and Maradona, who was described as " a shitty black kid from the slums" in derogatory allusions to his swarthy skin and his poverty.
"On the field," Diego Maradona can be heard saying at the beginning and the end of the film, "there is peace.You forget everything.Problems go away, everything goes away."
Blessed with lightning speed, and a curly moptop, he partied hard, played hard (returning to play after a bad injury to his ankle ) and cheated a bit. Kapadia includes footage of him shoving at least three players.No, the "beautiful game" is not a gentlemen's game.Many players have sustained terrible injuries,some have died.
In the1986 World Cup quarter finals in Argentina’s 2-1 win against England in Mexico, Maradona scored two goals, the first by punching the ball past goalkeeper Peter Shilton. He would later comment that the goal had gone in "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God" a memorable and oft-used quote the film neglects to highlight.
Dispensing with a narrator, Kapadia omits several key events, choosing to focus on the Argentine player's six-year stint with Naples beginning in 1984 when Italy's poorest and most reviled city bought him for USD 12million, the highest price ever paid for a footballer.
By 1989, Maradona had gone downhill. Addicted to booze and cocaine, a habit nurtured by a local mafia family, Maradona would be banned from the game which he never ever played without making the sign of the cross.
His on-field piety co-existed comfortably with a roving eye and an illegitimate son he wouldn't acknowledge until the offspring turned 30. When he assumed his "Maradona” persona, it was to protect himself from the media.
At the film's end, we see him silver haired, ungainly and unable to even dribble. But he is still loved and adored by fans of the game he took to glory.