Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Diego Maradona – a life of promise and pain, a story of talent and discipline as well as chutzpah and cheek (QFT from 14 June)

New documentary profile film Diego Maradona suggests that the public, ebullient showman Maradona took over from the inner, less secure and more loveable Diego, plunging the footballer into the depths of substance abuse and away from the game that he so loved.

Maradona bore the burden of providing for his family from the age of 15, of feeding his craving for winning, of overcoming the hatred against him, of being unable to resist the opportunities that fed his addictions to women and cocaine, of becoming dependent on the Camorra crime syndicate for his supply of white powder, and of not being able to escape Napoli when he first asked to be released.

The high energy opening reveals the filmmaker’s hand and quickly establishes that Maradona is one of the all-time football greats and also seeds the doubt about whether he was ready for the fame and notoriety that followed his antics on and off the pitch. The audience are told that his success on the field is down to brain rather than brawn, with an understanding of how to adapt his footballing techniques to different situations, though we are also introduced to his personal coach who clearly boosts his already apparent high level of fitness.

The film concentrates on his time spent in Naples playing for the little-rated southern Italy team, building them up to national and European trophy wins, and the immediate aftermath of his fall from grace after encouraging Napoli fans to support Argentina in their World Cup game against Italy, recklessly staged in the Napoli stadium as part of Italia ’90. (That ‘hand of God’ moment from 1986 also features!)

Even recognising the peaks to which his career soared and the subsequent decline in personal and sporting fortune, the 130-minute run time is a tad indulgent and still doesn’t leave room to examine other aspects of Maradona’s legacy, for instance his political opinions.

Director Asif Kapadia never lets us see the people being interviewed about Maradona to be seen on-screen, relying instead on often grainy but very effective visuals from broadcast media outlets and behind-the-scene footage from family, fans and clubs. As someone who has never attended a professional football match, I am not really this film’s target audience, yet I found it strangely captivating as it unfolded the story of a life of promise and pain, of talent, skill and discipline as well as confidence, chutzpah and cheek.

Diego Maradona is being screened in the Queen’s Film Theatre from Friday 14 June and will also be shown in the Odeon on Thursday 13 June as part of Docs Ireland.

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