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'Hero and hustler' Maradona in Cannes spotlight

China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-16 09:18
Diego Maradona. REUTERS

In-depth portrait of Argentine superstar includes rare footage, new interviews

PARIS - Diego Maradona is sure to cause a stir when he turns up at this week's Cannes film festival for a new documentary about his jaw-dropping life by the Oscar-winning maker of Amy.

It is only one of a wave of new works about the flawed Argentine soccer genius that include a just-wrapped Amazon biopic series that chronicles every step of his dramatic rise and fall.

The poster for Asif Kapadia's striking documentary Diego Maradona also pulls no punches, calling him both hero and a "hustler".

Yet Maradona will still walk the Cannes red carpet with the man who won plaudits and prizes for his insight into the life and tragic death of singer Amy Winehouse.

Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bono and Iggy Pop will climb the same carpet during the festival, which starts on Tuesday, but few if any of them can draw the crowds or stir the passions as the short man born in a Buenos Aires slum.

It is this complex yet unshakable adoration, forged in Maradona's frequent flirtations with death, that drew Kapadia to his story.

After his acclaimed portrait of Brazilian Formula One ace Ayrton Senna, who lost his duel with death at 34 as he was leading the San Marino Grand Prix, the filmmaker said he had to steel himself to tackle another sporting hero who lived life on the edge.

Despite swearing never to make another sports film after Senna, Kapadia caved in when he discovered a cache of footage from Maradona's mythic period playing for Napoli.

Partying with the Camorra

"It was infamous," he told a documentary conference in Copenhagen earlier this year, with some sequences showing the player partying with dons from the Camorra, the Neopolitan mafia.

The footage was meant to go into a 1991 documentary that was never produced.

"We managed to get our hands on those films and thought, 'Diego is really interesting and his journey is incredible.' What he gets up to, and what happens to him, has much wider themes," Kapadia said.

Maradona also agreed to talk, sitting down for three long interviews "because he liked Senna. That was one of the reasons we were able to get through the door," said the producer.

Kapadia, who has invented his own genre of "true fiction" documentaries, concentrates on Maradona's Naples years, the most operatic part of his career.

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