If there ever was a word to describe Senna, that word is: fast. A documentary portraying Brazilian Formula One three-time-champion Ayrton Senna, the film is an in-depth character study of one of the greatest motor-sport drivers to live. The film portrays Senna’s 10 year life of racing starting with his sixth F1 race in 1984 to his tragic death in 1994 in Imola, San Marino. Watched by millions on TV, what is known as Formula One’s most tragic and dark weekend, when the life of two race drivers was taken in the same weekend as Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger fatally crashed; Senna reluctant to drive after this tragedy suffered the same fate.
What is fascinating about this documentary is the amount of archive footage BAFTA award-winning director Asif Kapadia has managed to source, almost creating the illusion that this film is actually a drama, perhaps closer to a TV soap considering the colourfulness of Senna’s own life. I’m not a fan of F1, but I’m extremely familiar with Ayrton Senna as a fellow Brazilian. I saw firsthand the idolizing of this sports person through the eyes of fellow Brazilians, although I never really understood the tenacity, talent and shine that F1 fans and race car colleagues admired in Senna. Senna shined with his spiritual, physicality and humility, making him a hit worldwide and especially in Japan. One can’t fail to forget a certain scene in Senna where a famous Japanese TV personality interviewing Senna loses her speech, followed by scenes of mass fans pushing him and his bodyguards; it could almost be mistaken for Beatlemania.
The main message, and this cannot and has not been convoluted by the filmmakers, is that Senna’s life revolved around racing and winning, fighting fiercely the politics of F1, and most interestingly with the president of FIA (Fédération Internationaly de l’Automobile), all in the name of racing.
Great soundtrack and fantastic archive footage supplied by Senna’s family, TV, YouTube (!) and F1 makes this one of the best reality/soap opera documentary for years. Even those who are not fans of the sport or never heard of Senna, can appreciate this shining example of what a champion is all about: blood, sweat and tears.