Documentary by Asif Kapadia
One of the first things you’ll notice about “Senna,” a documentary about Brazilian racecar legend Ayrton Senna, is the absence of talking heads. Director Asif Kapadia avoids the typical documentary convention of weaving in B-roll from sit-down interviews and instead relies entirely on archival footage. The result is a wonderfully intimate portrait of the Formula One legend who died in 1994.
Senna, whom many consider one of the top competitors in racing history, entered his first Formula One race in 1984. He became an instant star, wowing the crowds with his bold performances and prowess under rainy conditions.
But a rivalry soon emerged between Senna and his teammate Alain Prost, who held the spotlight before Senna entered the picture. Their rivalry, which went from friendly to bitter, plays out like the stuff of fiction.
Rivalry aside, Senna’s story is riveting in other ways: As his profile, he found himself entangled in some aggravating back-room politics. Meanwhile, he was an inspiration in Brazil, which at the time was suffering from an economic crisis. It didn’t hurt that he was a looker, either.
By unearthing an impressive wealth of footage, Kapadia weaves a seamless story about Senna’s rise. Much of the racing footage is shot from the cockpit of Senna’s car, offering views of the track as he careens around bends to the sound of a whining engine.
“Senna” gets off to a slow start, but after that you will be hooked. Even if you know nothing about racecar driving, you’ll find yourself drawn to the thrill of the sport.
Playing at Landmark Sunshine Cinema