Asif Kapadia’s new documentary on the Argentinian superstar will surely provide a greater understanding to the football moguls. However, this could have been performed to a greater scale and ends up painting a rather fragmented picture of Diego Maradona’s true character.
“Diego; that wonderful boy with insecurities, and Maradona; a personality created to face all the demands of his life, who couldn’t show any weakness”. This split-personality theory coined by his personal trainer paints the perfect image of the Argentinian’s career: bipolar. Capable of as much creativity and magic on the pitch as he was of controversy and bad decisions off of it, Diego Maradona has long given the world reasons to possess a split opinion towards him. Unfortunately, the same can be said of Asif Kapadia’s indecisive new documentary on the perpetrator of the infamous “Hand of God”.
The film opens with footage from within a car which resembles a car chase. This is accompanied by a rapid recap of the beginnings of his career through the youth ranks at Argentinos Juniors, to his short stay at Boca Juniors, to his troublesome arrival in Europe with Barcelona. All of these events lead up to the core subject matter of this documentary which is his seven-year stay at Napoli in Italy in which Diego will demonstrate both his magic on the pitch and his antics off of it.
Kapadia does a formidable job of portraying the overwhelming and difficult life in Naples in the 1980s. Arriving at a difficult for both the club and the city itself, Maradona appears as a Messiah-like figure set to deliver their first league titles to a city in dire need of a victory and recognition across Italy. However, it would perhaps have been interesting to pay slightly greater attention to his teammates at Napoli and his relationship with them rather than focusing everything on the Argentinian’s relationship with the fans.
One of the main worries going into a documentary such as this is that the director will attempt to present the subject in a way to create sympathy from the audience. While there are certainly moments where Asif Kapadia does so, they are not overbearing and are well-complemented by negative portrayals of the Argentinian rebel.
However, in a documentary where the topic of best player of all time is brought up several times, it is slightly disappointing not to speak of his views towards the current generation’s two best players who are largely considered as holding the title. You simply cannot make a documentary in 2019 painting the picture of Maradona as a contender to the title of greatest of all-time without mentioning Lionel Messi! This could easily have been introduced as Kapadia also focuses on his World Cup performances with Argentina in ’86 and ’90. To deliberately omit his time managing Argentina and Messi between 2008 and 2010 seems to be a missed opportunity to shed greater light on the true nature of both “Diego” and “Maradona”.