Diego Maradona, arguably history’s best footballer (who died just last November), was a bundle of contradictions: a religious hedonist, a humble egotist, a superb athlete seemingly dedicated to self-destruction. To his friends he was “Diego,” a modest, caring individual. To the public he was the bad boy known as “Maradona.” The inability to handle fame is hardly a new theme, but Maradona turned it up to eleven.
Do you need to know anything about soccer to enjoy this movie? Let me put it this way: I am an American who has little interest in sports in general. Yet I found this bio-doc by documentarian extraordinaire Asif Kapadia absolutely riveting. Kapadia has previously applied his incredible insights and filmmaking skills to Amy Winehouse (Amy, 2015) and Ayrton Senna (Senna, 2010). The director was granted access to Maradona’s private library of video clips, and sifted through 500 hours of never-before-seen material to put this together.
Like all of the best sports movies, this is not about sports. It’s a sprawling, honest and compassionate character study on the themes of the corruption of exceptionalism and how raw, unrestrained fame can destroy a human. It could very well change your opinion of the man and the legend that surrounds him. Did mine. (130 min)
Released in Japan February 5, 2021.