“Diego Maradona” is an insightful look into how we build our heroes up, only to tear them down.

Told with archived footage and voice-over interviews director Asif Kapadia opens “Diego Maradona” with an 80 style montage of a car following another car, that cuts back and forth with video of Diego Maradona in the height of his career. This perfectly sets the stage for a documentary that is full of juxtaposition. Diego the child who loves and cares for his parents, his wife, and his fans versus Maradona the sports superstar who stays out late partying with prostitutes and drug dealers.

Diego Maradona

For me, I had never heard of Maradona prior to this film. I don’t follow football (soccer) so I went to this documentary ignorant of all things Diego Maradona.  Maradona was born in the slums of Argentina to become one of the world’s best football players, often compared to Pelé. Unlike Pelé, however,  Maradona is more often remembered for the controversies that followed his career than his skill on the field.

The film was pulled from 500 hours of never-before-seen footage. Most of it is taken from Maradona’s personal archive to show the full range of his highs and his Lowes. The Lowes include drug addiction, an illegitimate child, friendships with the Italian mafia, and how he was pulled in many directions when it came to his loyalties on the field. At  5’5″ he was not the tallest or most agile player on the field but through his genius as a player, we see how this short stocky guy could work his way past players to score game-winning goals that took the S.S.C. Napoli team from the lowest in the league to the best in the 1980s. The decision to move to Napoli was a controversial one. The Argentinean born player was playing for FC Barcelona a top tiered team when he received a record sum of money to move to Napoli. For Maradona, he wanted respect he didn’t receive in Barcelona, something he received at first being treated as a god in Napoli. This godlike status took its toll on Maradona as he also leads Argentina from underdog status to World Cup champions in 1986.

At over 2 hours the film feels a bit long at points for a documentary. Especially since as an audience we are subject to a lot of hand-held archived camera movement and quality. However, for people like myself, Asif Kapadia does an excellent job of keeping us engaged into how easily we can build people up, hold them to an unattainable standard, and turn against them as they fall. And, for the football fans out there this is well worth watching. The film is a lesson on the way fame can corrupt, but more importantly, it is a lesson to the audience on the way we treat those we idolize.

  • Director:  Asif Kapadia
  • Running Time:2 hour and 10 minutes
  • Released Date: US September 20th. 2019 / UK June 16th, 2019

Review by Milo Denison, the author of “How to Manage Your Manager” a satirical look at being successful in the corporate world.