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The dominant emotion while watching the Asif Kapadia film Diego Maradona was slack-jawed astonishment.
It wasn’t about the details of what was revealed. For my generation, Maradona’s career and afterlife had been followed to obsessive degree, long before the age of the internet. Newspaper articles, magazines found street side or in libraries, later on, a few books. The story arc of Maradona, mesmeric typhoon of the 1986 World Cup to the deranged spectator on the balcony of the St Petersburg Stadium in 2018, is well-known and much mourned over.
Even with this information bank from history, the revelation in Kapadia’s documentary comes from its scale. Of the intensity of everything. Maradona’s football, his place as breadwinner to a large family, his response to the city of Naples, the size of his stardom and its inverse intimacy with everyone, no matter how far removed from the charmed circle of a superstar athlete’s life. The footage – distilled out of 500 hours – is Maradona’s entire tragic hero life telescoped into two hours. There are voiceovers from dozens of people around at the time including the man himself, as he sounds today – Maradona as washed-up, beat-up, yesteryear footballing god.
But the archival material itself is the stuff of riches, gold ingots if you like, stacked one on top of the other. Kapadia has said that Maradona’s first agent Jorge Cyterszpiler got two cameramen, Argentinian Juan Luburu and Italian Luigi Martucci to follow him around everywhere in the early years. The intention was to produce a movie, which never got made, Cyterszpiler and Maradona split up but Kapadia’s producers were able to source the material. Along with telling Maradona’s tale, what the footage also does is place
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