I knew quite a lot about Senna because I was lucky enough to be selected to film a commercial for Goodyear tires years ago…we had full access to Senna and his team to show how the technology that Goodyear used on the F1 track was transferred to the family car. Tall task for sure but off I went with little or no knowledge of F1, directly to Imola, Italy for a week of immersion into the lives of a Formula One driver and his team.
Even after that experience I still didn’t know much about Ayrton Senna’s life and career before watching the film. I know that he was perhaps the greatest driver ever – not just of his era, but ever – and his life was cut short ironically one year exactly after my week with the team and even more ironic at the exact same track.
When Senna begins, most of its viewers already know how it ends: With the life of Ayrton Senna, one of the greatest race car drivers ever to walk the planet, suddenly and tragically killed in a racing accident.
So it was with a sense of foreboding and slight apprehension that I settled in to watch a documentary which has already created worldwide buzz and been a success at the European box office.
I forgot all about the ending because I was quickly drawn into the images and excitement and joy of Senna’s vibrant life, fascinated by his love and passion for racing and excellence.
In many ways, the film was an education. And it certainly serves that purpose. But even for longtime Formula One fans who adored Senna or simply followed his career closely, there are many new things to see.
Senna is packed with rare footage dug up from Bernie Ecclestone’s F1 archives. The filmmakers had unprecedented and unlimited access to thousands of hours of film as well as video from the Senna family’s private collection.
The director Asif Kapadia never needed the viewers to take their eyes off Senna for even one second. Most documentaries lean on showing us modern-day interviews to fill the gaps between the archived footage; in Senna, though, we only hear the voices of the interview subjects as the film keeps rolling with shot after shot of the fascinating Brazillian.
Even though nothing was scripted it has all the elements that make a great blockbuster movie: Tension. Action. Conflict. Joy. Tragedy…the film is very, very real…a fact we’re reminded of when Senna’s demise eventually arrives .
Don’t miss Senna. The film does justice to the greatness of the man himself and the sport of Formula One.