14 March 2009

MARADONA BY KUSTURICA (Dir. Emir Kusturica, Spain/France, 2008)

A cycle of recent documentaries on iconic and controversial figures from the world of sport has included Zinedine Zidane and Mike Tyson. James Toback's self financed documentary on Mike Tyson is set for release very soon but I am not sure if Serbian film maker, Emir Kusturica's hyper kinetic dissection of Maradona as a football player, worldwide celebrity and self confessed drug addict will likely to be endorsed by much of the mainstream British press. The controversial 'hand of god' moment in the England vs Argentina match of 1986 becomes somewhat of a motif in Kusturica's documentary. Maradona suggests how the triumph over England was not merely a victory for a nation that had suffered defeat in the Falklands war but it was a chance to defeat imperialism. Kusturica thankfully presents Maradona as a revolutionary figure in his country and the player's surprisingly passionate political points of view underlines how he has used his celebrity status to channel the adoration of his fans to resist the forces of American imperialism. Kusturica's approach is from the perspective of a fan and he never really stops to criticise Maradona, preferring to let him speak about his notorious relationship with drugs and how this effected his position as a father and husband.

Documentaries like Tyson and Maradona by Kusturica pose a number of interesting questions related to distribution. A similar criticism was made against the Al Gore documentary 'An Inconvienent Truth' and I can sympathise with critics when they put forward the perfectly valid argument concerning the uncinematic nature of some documentaries. Perhaps a documentary like this one would be better suited to the small screen but then I would be overlooking the fact that Maradona is one of the most recognisable sporting icons of the last 30 years or so. Nevertheless, it does make for a fascinating documentary, especially in the moments in which we see Maradona conversing with political figures like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.

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