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Diego Maradona doco dances around his rougher edges

DIEGO MARADONA
directed by Asif Kapadia

Documentarian Asif Kapadia explores the life of the Argentine footballer in his latest portrait of a doomed hero.

In two superb films, documentarian Asif Kapadia dived deeply into the psyches of doomed heroes: first the racing driver Ayrton Senna, then the singer Amy Winehouse. Forgoing the tedium of talking heads in favour of meticulously edited archival material, Kapadia places his subjects in a reconstructed present tense and gives us a potent sense of intimacy.

Yet Kapadia’s latest, a portrait of the Argentine footballer Diego Maradona, feels far less intimate than it should. Beloved, mischievous, talented, despised, a simultaneous “cheat” and “genius”, Maradona is a fascinating figure, and Kapadia’s obsessive search for veracity and depth is certainly on display. Spliced between scintillating action replays is plenty of previously unrevealed home video, and the director excels at placing events in a social and political context (Argentina’s 1986 World Cup quarterfinal victory over England played as revenge for the Falklands War, for example).

Yet, in trying to divorce man from myth, attempting to decouple Diego from Maradona, the man’s complexity and contradictions seem to go missing. His journey, in this film, can go only one way: from the heights of triumph to ignominy and disgrace, from “Golden Boy” to persona non grata. Indeed, much of Maradona’s later years – the arguably more interesting part – after his ban from football in the early 90s is totally absent.

With a fleetness of foot familiar to Maradona himself, Kapadia dances around the rougher edges of a life.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★

This article was first published in the August 24, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.