British director Asif Kapadia’s highly anticipated third documentary feature, Diego Maradona, premiered Out of Competition at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival on Sunday night.
Expectations ran high but the football legend could not make it to the festival owing to a shoulder surgery that he is undergoing in Mexico.
Kapadia, an Indian-origin filmmaker whose association with the festival goes back to 1998, when he won the Cinefondation second prize for his Royal College of Art graduation film The Sheep Thief, made his narrative feature debut with The Warrior (2001), starring Irrfan Khan.
He has since earned the reputation as one of the world’s most bankable biographical documentary makers following the success of the BAFTA Award-winning Senna and the Oscar-winning Amy.
“Both those documentaries,” the director said during a Talent Talk session organised in the UK Film Centre in its Pavilion here, “were about great people who died young. I did not want to repeat myself. That is why it felt right to do a film on a man who is still living and growing old.”
Diego Maradona the film has emerged out of several years of rummaging through video footage, researching innumerable published articles and conducting 80-odd interviews.
The 130-minute film focuses on the Argentine football legend’s turbulent and triumphant seven-year stint with SSC Napoli, which he joined in 1984 for a then world record fee.
The film captures the life and times of the genius through his triumphs and tribulations of the 1980s and early 1990s. It was a period during which Maradona saw great highs, including Argentina’s 1986 World Cup victory, and lows, which included messy run-ins with authority.
“This film was a new challenge,” said Kapadia. “Diego wasn’t the most reliable witness. His version of events was often exactly the opposite of what is on record. But he is obviously a very charismatic person and a great storyteller.”
“The film also addresses a lot of issues away from football; racism, family problems, addiction issues, troubles with the mafia. It is a crazy operatic film,” Kapadia said. It was a topsy-turvy ride that included Maradona leading the Naples club to its first-ever title.
Comparing it with his earlier two documentaries, the second of which (Amy) played in Cannes in 2015, Kapadia said, “‘Senna’ was an all-action hero film, ‘Amy’ was a musical and this one is like a gangster film.”