VOD film review: Diego Maradona
Ivan Radford | On 20, Nov 2019
Director: Asif Kapadia
Cast: Diego Maradona
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If football is a game of two halves, Diego Maradona is the epitome of the beautiful game. The sporting legend, celebrity, national treasure and de facto deity needs little introduction to anyone who has heard of the Argentina v England 1986 World Cup quarter-final. In that match, Maradona’s “Hand of God” helped his home country to victory, and what was a delight to one half of fans was a controversial scandal to others. Diego Maradona the film takes its cue from that dichotomy and uses it to pry apart the juxtaposition built into his very name: the documentary is torn down the middle, a study of Diego the man and Maradona the myth.
Director Asif Kapadia is no stranger to probing portraits of public figures, his Senna and Amy bringing heartfelt and shrewd insight into the minds and private lives of his subjects. Diego Maradona is different in that he is still alive, which means that he’s able to comment himself on his own legacy. Kapadia’s interviews, though, find him reticent to offer anything deep, and so he takes that frustrating reluctance as his cue to examine the man hidden out of view of the cameras.
The contrast between those two identities runs throughout the whole production, and from an opening remark by an early coach of the young footballer, the film never loses sight of the hard-knocks upbringing that drove the boy to provide for his own family at the tender age of 15.
Moving on from Villa Fiorito, his race to stardom soon crashed into calamity, as he signed a contract at Barcelona in the 1980s – where he failed to live up to his own hype. It’s only natural, then, that he found his home at the outcast underdog of Naples, where he became a hero to the local fans. But that powerful status carried with it connections to crime, drugs and more, and Maradona’s larger-than-life persona consumed the young boy that was Diego.
Kapadia and editor Chris King do a masterful job of cutting together archive footage to find not only revealing clips but also to craft an emotionally gripping narrative; in their hands, the two strands of Diego Maradona dovetail in the 1990 World Cup, when Argentina played Italy at the Naples stadium. With Diego claiming that Naples wasn’t really part of Italy and that they should support his home country, his own split identity ripped through his reputation, sending him on a downwards spiral that may be familiar in some regards, but still carries a hard-hitting weight.
Footballer, celebrity, addict, cheater, genius… Diego Maradona brings all these facets of its star together over two hours to create a complex but confidently accessible tale – a slick portrait of a man and a myth and the football pitch-sized gap between them.