Cert 12A 130mins Stars 4
This gobsmacking documentary about the magnificently flawed Argentinian footballing genius is a must-see for the ‘hand of god’ goal generation.
The infamous incident defeated England and helped him to almost singlehandedly, ahem, power his country to success at the 1986 Mexico World Cup, as well as cementing his contradictory image as a cheat and hero.
But that’s only the prelude to a glittering period of superstardom tarnished by a spectacular fall from grace, which involved cocaine addiction, and being banned from playing.
He drove unfashionable and unsuccessful Italian club side, Napoli, to two top-flight championships in Italy’s brutally savage Serie A, and to European success.
In doing so Maradona roused a proud city, inspired the region and became worshipped with an almost religious fervour, which is a terrible height to fall from.
Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo is a concrete gladiatorial arena full of flags and flares, and is packed for a riotous press conference where Maradona is first unveiled to the home supporters.
Whatever team you were supporting in 1987, it can’t have been as much fun as supporting Maradona’s Napoli. Mind you, if you thought the terrace songs of English football fans were sick and disgusting, you should hear the Italians in full voice.
It’s a look at a remarkable age of football from an age before players were obsessed with personal branding and access became limited to their immaculate online instagram lives, as for example, Lionel Messi, or Christiano Ronaldo.
Touching upon Maradona’s poverty stricken childhood, we see the pressure of his being the family breadwinner from age of 15 years old. And there are interviews with girlfriends and his personal trainer.
Oscar winning director Asif Kapadia, previously produced celebrated documentaries on singer Amy Winehouse, and racer Ayrton Senna, but where their untimely tragic deaths provide a strong narrative framework, here Kapadia has to create one, and it feels forced and arbitrary.
To emphasise the psychological importance of the accusation of his fathering a child, the narrative is mostly limited to Maradona’s career with Italy’s FC Napoli, meaning Argentina’s calamitous campaign in 1994’s USA World Cup is bizarrely excluded.
However it’s a victory for research and editing and uses a wealth of astonishing never seen before footage, accompanied by a soundtrack as winning as the football.