The fascinating story of Diego Maradona – whose success on the pitch was matched only by his notoriety off it – is another perfect subject for Asif Kapadia, the London-born director behind Bafta-winning documentary Senna (2010), the tragic story of Formula One driver, Ayrton Senna, and the Oscar-winning Amy (2015), about the late singer Amy Winehouse. Reuniting Kapadia with the same award-winning team behind those films, Diego Maradona promises to be a uniquely powerful and gripping look at an incredible figure who transcended his sport to become a cultural icon. This isn’t a film for football fans alone; this is a thrilling story on an epic scale.
Diego Maradona’s unrivalled sporting prowess is legendary, thanks to a career spanning more than two decades, four World Cups and hundreds of goals. After making his mark playing in both his native Argentina and Barcelona, Maradona arrived in Naples on 5 July 1984 — a move for which he commanded yet another world-record fee. Soon Maradona had turned the ailing club’s fortunes around, wore the captain’s armband and broke countless records along the way.
As well as becoming a star player, Maradona became something of a god to the city; murals were painted on walls in his honour, and legions of newborn children bore his name. Yet his years in Naples were also increasingly marked by scandal; accusations of drug use, illegitimate children and mob ties dominated the media and, after serving a 15-month ban for failing a drugs test, Maradona left the city in disgrace in 1992.
This is Kapadia’s first documentary to centre on a still-living subject, and he sees it as a natural successor to Amy and Senna. As he told The Guardian in 2017, it is “the third part of a trilogy of child geniuses and fame, and the effect it can have, and what they mean to their country, and what they mean to people.”
In making the documentary, Kapadia has enjoyed the full support of the now 58-year-old Maradona himself. That, together with unprecedented access to more than 500 hours of never-before-seen footage from Maradona’s personal archive, allows Kapadia to delve behind the headlines, the scandals, and the sensationalism to tell the epic, thrilling and intimate story of just how Maradona became the ultimate hero – and anti-hero. It’s the deeply personal story of a young boy from the slums of Argentina, whose hard work and natural talent brought him international fame, and who discovered that there was a high price to pay for that success.
“I’ve long been a fan of Diego Maradona. I was taken by his character, his genius, honesty, passion, humour and vulnerability,” says Kapadia of his subject, whose story he has long wanted to tell. “He was always the little guy fighting against the system, against the wealthy, the powerful, and he was willing to do anything, to use all of his cunning and intelligence to win. Diego is the greatest player of all time, but with flaws and weaknesses. His life was one of extremes, but somehow, ever the street fighter, he has survived to tell the tale.”
ASIF KAPADIA ON DIEGO MARADONA
“Diego Maradona is about an uneducated, streetwise kid from a shantytown, thrust into the height of worldwide fame, earning huge amounts of money, given a god-like status, all because of his magical left foot. I wanted to try to understand this charismatic genius, to show all sides of his personality, focusing on his time in Naples, when he became the greatest player in the world, but also where his problems began to spiral out of control. It was vital to make a film about Diego that appeals to people who love football, but also those who have little interest in sport, or who see -Maradona as a cheat. I wanted to -challenge these -preconceptions and to understand this complex, brilliant character – enabling him to tell his story in his own words, revealing his struggles for success but also the devastating effects of fame and fortune.”