DIEGO MARADONA gets 8/10 Touched by the Hand of God

Directed by Asif Kapadia

Starring Diego Armando Maradona, Claudia Villafane, Diego Maradona Jnr.


To some a football deity, to others a figure of hate, football star Diego Maradona rose out of an Argentinian slum to become one of the most famous icons of the sport. However, his is a life also touched by scandal and regret, as drug addiction, affairs, and underworld ties all became a part of his life. Unsurprisingly all this makes fertile ground for the documentary maker that brought you Amy and Senna.

The genius here lies in knowing what to convey as the story, by targeting the perfect segment of time in the footballer’s life, and delving into that section while touching on previous history only as required to illuminate events. In centering on his time at Napoli (1984-1992) Diego Maradona is not a definitive history of the player’s life and career, but an insight into him at the height of his fame, and his eventual dramatic and public downfall. The weakness in the film comes from that life not having as clearly tragic or dramatic an end point as previous works, and the denouement drags a little.

Director Asif Kapadia launches into this with a cinematic flare, tearing through the streets of Naples with dramatic footage of Maradona’s ecstatic arrival to the city and his new club. It’s a flare that is never broken throughout the film, allowing the footage of the time to speak for itself, with the occasional non period interview threaded through only in voice over. This gently nudges the narrative along, allowing for a consistent flow to the film, without breaking for a talking head to give perspective to Diego’s life at the time.

Here they are blessed by the incredibly expressive face of Diego. Through a fine curatorial process Kapadia is able to highlight the emotions of the narrative through the footage, to clearly highlight Maradona’s elation and isolation. As his fame grows, as he’s deified by the fans, as his drug addiction grows and his friendship with the underworld Camorra becomes more entrenched – we can clearly see the football star’s own emotions captured in amber.

Diego Maradona throws audiences into the moment, allowing them to experience the fervour and elation of the crowd, yet also allows us to see the man behind the god, and understand his all too human failings.