Arts

'Impeccably-constructed' doc Diego Maradona focuses on deeply divisive footballing legend

Damon Smith watches as documentary filmmaker Asif Kapadia explores the flawed man behind the sporting legend of Diego Maradona

Kapadia's film chronicles the souring relationship between Maradona and his fans
Damon Smith

DIEGO MARADONA (12A, 127 mins) Documentary. Diego Maradona, Diego Maradona Snr, Dalma Salvadora Franco, Claudia Villafane, Corrado Ferlaino. Director: Asif Kapadia.

Rating: 3 stars

LONDON-born filmmaker Asif Kapadia collected numerous awards including two Baftas for his turbo-charged documentary Senna, which constructed a multi-faceted portrait of sporting genius from hours of race footage, photographs, interviews and archive material.

Three years later, he collected another Bafta and an Academy Award for his deeply moving and provocative account of the rise and fall of Amy Winehouse, which candidly addressed the singer's bruising battle with drug and alcohol addiction.

In his impeccably-constructed new documentary, Kapadia focuses on a deeply divisive figure who emerged from the rubble of his spectacular self-destruction and has continued to make headlines off the football pitch.

Diego Maradona begins on July 5 1984 with grainy footage of cars slaloming at speed through the winding streets of Naples bound for the Stadio San Paolo.

Twenty-three year-old Diego Armando Maradona is about to be unveiled to more than 75,000 frenzied fans of ailing Serie A side SSC Napoli.

Club president Corrado Ferlaino has paid a record-breaking £6.9 million to Barcelona, hoping that the Argentinian striker can loosen the stranglehold of clubs in northern Italy over the league.

Maradona's superstar status doesn't extend to lavish perks.

"I asked for a Ferrari and got a Fiat," jokes the footballer in a voiceover.

Archive footage and home videos chart those early years with the club, leading to the 1986 World Cup when Maradona's left hand controversially helped secure victory over England in the quarter-finals en route to lifting the trophy as captain of Argentina.

The infringement, unseen by the match referee, is deemed here as "some sort of symbolic revenge against England" for the Falklands war.

The following season in Italy, Napoli wins the Serie A title and the coveted Coppa Italia.

This historic double sparks two months of celebrations in the city and in amusing images from the era, we see a banner draped across one cemetery which reads: "You don't know what you missed."

At the same time, Maradona begins to fraternise with the organised criminal underworld and takes his first snort of cocaine.

"One hit, I felt like Superman," he giddily confesses.

Kapadia's film spares few blushes as it chronicles the souring relationship between Maradona and fans until he gains a reputation as the most hated person in Italy.

Diego Maradona lacks the emotional gut-punch of Senna and Amy, but is nonetheless a compelling snapshot of a self-made celebrity, who precipitated his own demise.

The intriguing dilemma of Maradona's divided loyalty, exemplified by his captaincy of Argentina against Italy at the 1990 World Cup, isn't fully addressed on screen and remains a tantalising loose thread.

On this one occasion, Kapadia's film fails to emulate its charismatic subject and score in front of open goal.

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