‘Not a a lot of people reach the kind of heights that he did and are yet so complicated and divide the audiences the way he did,’ tells me Asif Kapadia, who has now managed to make a trilogy of documentaries about icons from different fields of our time, Ayrton Senna, Amy Winehouse and now, Diego Maradona. Senna led Asif to win the BAFTA award for Best Documentary and Amy led him to win an Academy Award for Best Documentary, making his recent film on Maradona one of the most highly anticipated documentaries of the year. Once again. Asif’s prowess over documentary filmmaking flares as he recreates the story of one of the biggest football legends to have ever existed. In Diego Maradona one sees a man and the multitude of facets that make him the controversial figure he is. While his life comes across as challenging as the achievements he has managed to garner, Asif brings you closer to an icon who the world thought they knew very well but clearly failed to see him for who he really is.
As PVR cinemas brought Asif Kapadia and his new movie to Indian theatres, we had a chance to meet him and speak at length about the documentary. Excerpts follow:
Platform last spoke to you after you had made Amy. Could you catch us up on what kind of projects you have worked on since then apart from Maradona?
I did Mindhunter for Netflix and David Fincher after Amy, and I was working on it while the research on Diego Maradona was happening. I also worked for Burberry on a large campaign and made a trailer for this film that was never really made. That is pretty much all I remember for now!
What led you towards Maradona as your subject for this film?
Mainly because I am a football fan and for my generation he was the best player. Well that’s not enough to make a film but with Maradona, it is the kind of drama and controversy that his life has seen which makes him a really interesting character. Not a lot of people reach the kind of heights that he did and are yet so complicated and divide the audiences the way he did.
“As far as I know, he hasn’t seen the film yet and everyone, including you and I will only know about it after he puts it on his Instagram!”
During the making of this film, how was your experience with interviewing Maradona like and what kind of a relationship do you share with him now?
I met him four or five times. Some days they were good days and some days, not so good. Some days he wasn’t feeling well and some days he would be very chatty so the experience was kind of an average in all. My feeling of him was that he was a very charming and nice guy, and he once spoke to me for nine to ten hours. I mean no one really gives you so much time and access to themselves. Yet he was not a very easy person in terms of making him look backwards or make him admit that he had mad mistakes or done wrong things in his past. So it was really a hard job to kind of dig in to certain key moments of his life but I feel like we got there. In terms of contacting him, really it was always through someone else. Its not like I have his number on my mobile or anything. There was this brief period of time when he waist Dubai and we spoke to the people around him who gave us access to him butane he left Dubai we lost all contact with him. The people around him changed and he began to travel all over the world. The last I spoke to him was around the World Cup last year when I was about to go to Moscow to show him the film but I decided against it because the World Cup is a crazy time and it did not seem right to show him the film then. I was in Argentina two weeks ago where I was hoping to meet him and show him the film but it didn’t happen. So as far as I know, he hasn’t seen the film yet and everyone, including you and I will only know about it after he puts it on his Instagram!
Could you take us a little further into the making of this film and your creative process behind it?
I have a big team of people who do all the research. Now coming from England somehow everyone assumes this one given version of the story but for us it was important to really dig deeper. For Maradona, everyone key in his life speaks in Spanish and our story itself essentially takes place in Italy, when he was playing in Naples. So it was essential that we spoke and understood Italian and Spanish. You have to talk to the people and their stories in their words, in their language.
So it took us three long years to make this film. The first year was just research which was happening while I was working on Mindhunter with David Fincher. After I came back my team had drawn extensive lists of key people and their whereabouts and who to speak to and why. Then I began interviewing people and I met about 80 people. Some of the people are in the film, some of them just have two lines and some of them are not in the film at all and gave me just bits of information. So we have the research, the footage that we collected, the interviews and then the edit. Now all of these happen simultaneously and affect one another, Like something in the footage would change the interviews and some thing in the dit would change how we use the footage. So everything came together in a very organic way, very different from the making of a fiction film which has a very linear and definite process. This is one of the things I love about documentary filmmaking, the flexibility.
“I was hoping that people will come to sympathise with him and people like him, considering the kind of life he lived and everything that he has achieved, not a lot of people can go through a life like his and survive.”
What do you think you were setting out to achieve when you started this project?
I knew he was famous and football is the biggest sport in the world. Generally people think they know everything about Maradona and my hope is, with every film I make, to say something new about the characters people thing they already know everything about. It was the same with Amy where people thought they knew her and the fact that she had problems and et cetera and then you watch the film and you realise that maybe you did not know much about her at all. Same with Maradona and what is interesting is that his story is somehow really moving because you’ll see that Maradona does not always do things that are very likeable and he is quite a tough character to love. But I was hoping that people will come to sympathise with him and people like him, considering the kind of life he lived and everything that he has achieved, not a lot of people can go through a life like his and survive.
What was the most challenging part about this project?
Press. Not you and I am kidding. No each film was really different in this way. With Senna, I was kind of creating a style of filmmaking that was not very well know at that time. With Amy, it was very emotionally draining and very raw because she had only just died so nobody wanted to talk about it and nobody wanted to trust the journalists, the filmmakers. So that film was almost like a therapist for all these people. Maradona was difficult because he is not easy to get close to. And then, I live in London, the film is set it Italy, Diego lives in Dubai, and all of the people who know him the best, live in Argentina. So, I don’t speak Spanish, I don’t speak Italian. It was a really hard and complicated, a world travelling film really to create a story of a guy who is not very easy t get close to in the first place.
Lastly, what are you working on next?
Just thinking, right now just reading. I have no idea and I and really just looking forward to a break.
Text Nidhi Verma