Diego Maradona, from acclaimed documentarian Asif Kapadia (Amy, Senna), is a new film chronicling the life and career of the eponymous Argentine footballer. An interesting, if overlong portrait of a public figure’s fall from grace, this is an all-around well-made documentary that will interest audiences even if they are unfamiliar with the subject at its core.
The movie documents the career of Maradona, one of the most successful yet controversial figures in all of football (the real football, referred to by some as soccer) history. The ultimate story of the rise and fall of public opinion, the film does an excellent job of showing the ways in which shifting public opinion affected Maradona, both athletically and personally.
If anything, the movie feels like it could have explored Maradona’s personal life with a bit more depth. Although some of the controversies that came up during the highest period of the athlete’s career, such as his drug addiction or his various relationships, but these things are often dropped in favor of exploring his athletic exploits.
Clocking in at over two hours, the movie does run long for a feature-length documentary, and perhaps could have been cut a bit shorter. One of the sections of the film that feels particularly long is the beginning in which Maradona’s career is still running smoothly. Although this section will appeal to sports fans, it is the most conventional material that the movie has to offer, the conflict in the latter half of the film being more compelling.
The movie also could have spent a bit more time exploring the post-career life of Maradona. Granted, Kapadia is known as a biographical documentarian and Maradona is his first subject to still be alive at the time in which his film was made and released, but there is a very powerful scene in the movie in which Maradona reflects on his mistakes. The film needed more of that.
That said, the movie does an excellent job in making the sports scenes feel exciting. Sometimes documentaries like this can have a hard time capturing the competitive nature of sports because these games have already happened and audiences will likely know the outcome before seeing the film. Thanks to well-edited archive footage, Kapadia is able to create an artificial intensity that lends the movie a narrative momentum.
Of course, Kapadia’s film is very well-made, as you would expect from the filmmaker behind some of the decade’s most acclaimed documentaries. Kapadia’s style is very interesting as he uses exclusively archive footage to tell the story, along with voiceover. Kapadia does include some modern-day interviews with Maradona, but not in talking head form — only as narration to the archive footage. The result works quite well and feels very unique.
Diego Maradona may not be the best sports documentary ever made, but it is a very good one. Audiences will likely be left wanting something more, yet the movie will still be able to maintain the attention of most.
Diego Maradona debuts on HBO on October 1 at 9pm ET.