DIEGO MARADONA. UK, 2019. Directed by Asif Kapidia. 129 minutes, Rated M (Mature themes, coarse language and brief nudity).
Probably best to describe this film as a profile of the world champion football player from Argentina, Diego Maradona. While it is something of a portrait, most viewers of the film would be interested in having a lot more information and background. There is very little about his origins, lower class, some interviews with his mother, something about his childhood sweetheart, his relationship with women, his marriage, children.
The film-makers make the point by including a stroke in the title, Diego/Maradona, indicating that each part of his name does not adequately describe the whole person – or that there seem to be two differing personalities, Diego and Maradona.
The reason for using the word ‘profile’ arises because so much of the film is film footage, television interviews, interviews with talking heads. Maradona is mainly seen as being interviewed, or described.
And, as for interest, it will depend on audiences love for football/soccer, their knowledge of world competitions at the end of the 20th century and whether they know of the tangles in Maradona’s life and career. For those not interested, this profile will not necessarily engage them.
Whether one is a football fan or not, the footage of Maradona in play is quite outstanding. Or, rather, Maradona’s skills, his sense of timing, the movement and agility of his feet, his leaping, his misleading his opponents, these are highlighted and certainly cause audience admiration.
While Maradona was Argentinian, his career took him to Europe, initially to Barcelona which was not a successful move, and then to Naples. The Neapolitans embraced him, and he responded with moving their team further and further up the ladder to championship.
Audience interest may well be aroused by what happened to Maradona in Naples – there are some explanations, some talking heads giving information or speculating about what happened. And, what happened is Maradona’s celebrity life, introduction to drugs, the connection with the Neapolitan Mafia, a spectacular fall from grace. This profile does not really explore Maradona and his motivations and behaviour. They are taken as fact, the response of the authorities, the court appearances in courts, his penalties.
There is some final footage of Maradona in 2016, not looking like the agile football player that he was, rather, a man of increasing weight, age, some moments of contemplating what he was and what he might have been.
The British director, Asif Kapidia, made two previous documentaries on more widely known celebrities and their lives and careers, racing driver Ayrton Senna and singer, Amy Winehouse.
Released July 25th.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.