Constructed from over 500 hours of never-before-seen footage, this documentary centers around the career of celebrated football player Diego Armando Maradona, who played for S.S.C. Napoli in the 1980s.
Often this documentary states that Diego Maradona was really two people. Diego the poor and innocent kid that loved to play football and Maradona the tough and poised international superstar. This film is very much in the vein of Maradona as it is as rife with oversimplifications as it is with cracking goals.
The director Asif Kapadia sees it as the third part in his trilogy of documentaries on fame. But at times it feels like he skews events to fit his conception of fame. It frequently uses the trope of home videos underscored with sad music. As if at that moment there might be some deep dark underlying thoughts punctuating this joy. But for all we know they might just be thinking “I need to go to the toilet”.
Centred almost entirely at his time in Napoli, it does have a focused narrative. It's crazy how reality conveniently gave all the beats necessary for a melodrama. The tension that Maradona faced between his adopted city and his home country is palpable. Although there is some more recent footage, you can’t help but feel that his time spent after Italy might be more interesting, especially events like falling out with a pope. Maradona’s politics are also completely sidestepped, a strange omission since they are clearly very important to him.
The documentary works best when it looks at circumstances or events that give you an insight into the footballer. For instance, it demonstrates that not only was he a good footballer because of his physicality but he was a great footballer because he was a tactical thinker.
Things just feel a little shallow. For instance, the famous Hand of God moment has no real insight or analysis. You get a little bit of insight into his thought process but not much. Like a ball kicked into the neighbours garden too many times, it comes back flat.
Overall the score by Antonio Pinto is the film's greatest asset and one of the best I’ve heard so far this year. It has a great, driving tempo and really adds to the excitement. It helps pin the montages of Maradona on the pitch as a coherent rhythm.
The film is packed with gems from a variety of archives and does give you a real sense of what Naples must have been like at that time. All the best material comes straight from the pitch and there are some really exciting montages. As highlight reels, they really do remind you of how good football can be when it wants to. The sheer amount of sources the footage comes from meant it must have been one hell of an undertaking and it is certainly crafted well.
Lots of people are going to get a real kick out of this film and you certainly don’t have to be interested in football to enjoy it. But for me, it could have been so much more.
For many, Maradona was not just a victim on the tide of fame but a rebel who proved you needed brain as much as brawn on the pitch. To those on the receiving end of his temper and infidelity, he's a villain. Diego Maradona is certainly someone far more complex than this film feels comfortable with showing you, but enough is here to leave you intrigued.