Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Diego Maradona (2019 film)

Written and directed by Asif Kapadia, Diego Maradona is a documentary film about one of the greatest football (soccer for Americans) players that ever lived with the focus on his time playing for S.S.C. Napoli from 1984 to 1991 at a time when he was considered a god and then vilified through scandal and heartbreak. The film explores a man from the poorest area in Buenos Aires who would find a home in Naples for a time as he brought hope to the troubled city only to become a pariah in this classic rise-and-fall tale of the Argentinian player. The result is a rapturous and somber film from Asif Kapadia.

In the world of sports, there are certain icons that people can remember. In boxing, it’s Muhammad Ali. In baseball, Babe Ruth. In basketball, Michael Jordan. In American football, Joe Namath. These are name that are icons of their respective sports as other names can be put into the picture while in the world of football (soccer), there are numerous names that people will think. One of the most common names people will cite for an icon in soccer is Pele but others will cite Diego Armando Maradona as the icon of the sports. The Argentinian player was known for his dribbling, passing, and other styles of playing while using his small height at 5 feet and 5 inches to outsmart and outplay his opponents. From starting out with the Argentinos Juniors club for five years at the age 15 to being part of Boca Juniors in the 1981 to 1982 season and his work in the 1980s and early 1990s. There was no player that more revered but also more hated than Maradona.

The film focuses mainly his time playing with S.S.C. Napoli after an uneventful tenure with Barcelona, despite being the highest-paid player of his time for 5 million pounds ($7.6 million), from 1982 to 1984 as he was ravaged by injuries, setbacks, and fights with other players including a brawl at the 1984 Copa del Rey in front of King Juan Carlos and 100,000 fans during a game between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao. He would be transferred to S.S.C. Napoli for a record 6.9 million pounds ($10.48 million) where from 1984 to 1991, he was their star player as he would bring two league championships in the 1986-1987 season and in 1989-1990 season plus Coppa Italia in 1987, the UEFA Cup in 1989, and the Italian Supercup in 1990.

Shown mainly through archival and rare home movie footage provided by Maradona’s ex-wife Claudia Villafane as she along with one of Maradona’s sisters, journalists, sports writers, and Maradona himself would provide commentary about Maradona’s time in Naples which was considered the worst city in all of Europe in the 1980s. Yet, Maradona had a connection with the city as he was born in one of the worst areas in Buenos Aires as he was fourth child in a family that included three older sisters and two younger brothers to follow. In Naples which was a town in Southern Italy that received a lot of verbal abuse from towns from the north of the country was in dire straits economic and socially as Maradona’s arrival gave them hope. While that period of 1984 to 1991 would also have Maradona participate in two World Cups in 1986 and 1990 for Argentina who would win the Cup in ’86 as the Argentina-England quarterfinal game is discussed including the controversial “Hand of God” goal that Maradona did. Much of what writer/director Asif Kapadia explores is Maradona’s time in Naples as well as that international period as he was revered as an icon while was considered a God in Naples.

The usage of news footage, TV appearances, and other rare footage showcase the world that Maradona was in as he was someone who wanted to make sure that his own family lived well as well as be a people’s champion. Kapadia’s direction allows Maradona to make comments about his own accomplishments and flaws as a man as well as discuss his association with the local mafia family in Naples as well as the fact that he borne an illegitimate son in late 1986 which he denied until the mid-2000s. Maradona would admit to having affairs with other women while he was in a relationship and marriage to Villafane until their divorce in 2004 while Villafane knew about those affairs but didn’t care about since he always came home to her. Then there’s Maradona’s drug use as Maradona admitted to using cocaine during his time in Naples though it began when he was in Barcelona as he had it in control until 1990.

With the help of editor Chris King and sound editors Stephen Griffiths and Andy Shelley compiling all of the archival footage and audio interviews, Kapadia showcases the many trials and tribulations that Maradona endured but also his successes including his downfall in 1991 when his cocaine abuse caught up with him while getting the severe backlash following his performance at the 1990 World Cup when Argentina beat Italy in the semifinals during the penalty kick round as he went from beloved to the most hated man in the country. The usage of news footage, newspaper clippings, and other material showcase not just play into Maradona’s fall from grace but also the physical and emotional decline he would endure as Kapadia doesn’t touch upon his post-Napoli career that included a brief time at the 1994 World Cup where he was suspended due to a failed drug test. Yet, its epilogue plays more into an interview he did in the late 2000s as he had become obese and a shell of his former self as he would continue to struggle with his addiction to drugs.

Visual effects supervisor Dominic Thomson would provide some visuals to some of the news clippings along with some exterior shots of some of the locations. The film’s music by Antonio Pinto is terrific for its somber orchestral score that has elements of ambient music as it play into the many triumphs and failures of Maradona while music supervisor Iain Cooke provide a soundtrack of music in those times including Italian disco and European pop music that was popular around Maradona’s time in Italy.

Diego Maradona is a sensational film from Asif Kapadia. For anyone that loves soccer as well as Maradona should see this film while anyone not familiar with the sport or Maradona should seek this as an interesting subject matter of someone who was gifted only to succumb by temptation and his own faults as a man. Even as the amount of footage that is shown about the man himself showcases why he remains so revered for his playing as well as someone still trying to find himself. In the end, Diego Maradona is an incredible film from Asif Kapadia.

Asif Kapadia Films: (The Sheep Thief) – (The Warrior (2001 film)) – (The Return (2006 film)) – (Far North) – Senna - Amy (2015 film) - (Ali and Nino)

© thevoid99 2019


Brittani Burnham said...

I'm not familiar with this player but I'd be willing to learn. It sounds interesting enough. I'll keep an eye out for it.

thevoid99 said...

It's on HBO as if you've seen Senna and Amy, it's in that similar style except that the subject is still alive as it's part of a thematic trilogies of people who were seriously gifted but are also tragic figures.