Sunday, 21 August 2011


Senna [Review]

Opinion: B+

A good documentary is able to craft a dedicated direction of purpose by piecing together random raw footage that are mere senseless fragments when apart. Senna is one that is able to create a compelling tale of Ayrton Senna to inspire further beyond his Formula One career and allows us to view the racing days of a great driving legend with respect and in turn benefit much from it.

Spanning his years as a Formula One racing driver from 1984 to his untimely death a decade later, SENNA explores the life and work of the triple world champion, his physical and spiritual achievements on the track, his quest for perfection and the mythical status he has since attained.

Directed by Asif Kapadia (The Warrior, Far North), the film is written by Manish Pandey and produced by James Gay-Rees (Exit Through The Giftshop), Tim Bevan and Eric Feliner with Kevin Macdonald (Touching The Void, The Last King of Scotland, State of Play, Eagle) and Manish Pandey serving as executive producers.

The film has been made with the full co-operation of the family of Ayrton Senna, who have given permission for this to be the first documentary feature film about his life; Formula One Management, who have provided footage not previously seen theatrically; and the Ayrton Senna Institute, the charitable foundation established after his death which provides educational opportunities to millions of deprived Brazillian children.

Senna is pieced together with several random past footage provided by various parties that include the Formula One Management as well as the Senna family. With the vast amount of mutually irrelevant footage in hand, it is through the focused direction of the filmmakers to create meaningful revelations in a documentary feature.

Asif Kapadia's team has not shot any footage for this feature about the late Brazilian F1 legend Ayrton Senna, which is somewhat peculiar that there is no production phase involved. In short, Kapadia has no control whatsoever over the quality of the visuals and sound that varies drastically from low to high. Also in consideration of past technologies associated during the late 80s and early 90s, the vignetted years of Senna's F1 career, production values are very highly dependent on the vision of the filmmakers.

Senna was a heavy influence to the racing world then and has transcended beyond with this film.

Motorsport fans or not, Senna is sure to grip you like a good traction and influence with his spirited personality that applies both in racing and in daily life. The film dwells deep within the media-savvy rivalry between Senna and Alain Prost, and goes on for a good portion of the film in the middle section. It may seem like spicy entertainment to most, but it is really a pivotal point in Senna's life that changed him.

Senna began as a liberal young mind whose sole passion in Go-Kart racing transported him to a greater platform when he raced and won his first Formula One Grand Prix within a couple of years. The transition from pure motorsport racing to one that is complicated by politics is a distinctive highlight of the film, which can also be applied relevantly in other aspects in life. It's almost like how an innocent child has to compromise his carefree days to one that is polluted by dirty ways of the adults as he grows up.

It is his defiant stand against dirty tactics and strong belief in pure competitive racing that really inspires and wins the hearts of the audience. It is no surprise why it has aced the Audience Award under the World Cinema - Documentary category at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

It is not just the rivalry and heated competition dictating the entire film. Other environmental challenges constantly plague Senna throughout his racing career, such as how he handles intense stress and pressure as his ascend up the ladder of F1 legends gets steeper. There is also a notable chapter about the technological advantage that keeps his talents in check with time. There comes a season when the Williams-Renault team introduced electronic system within their cars that helped the car to achieve optimum balance and stability, reducing the requirements of its cockpit human driver.

Senna's talents and spirit may be strong, but it succumbs to imminent technological advancement.

There is only this much that mankind can do in his current era and with the flow of time, everything changes. Despite understanding the cold hard truth of life, he is nevertheless destined to seek improvement throughout his years of living and remains firm in his belief. Amidst all the virtue and principles that Senna stuck by, it is evident that he himself has also experienced changes throughout his life and F1 career.

There is only this much mankind can do, external factors often weigh us down in time. Despite so, Senna has done more than what is deemed possible in his career and personal life.

Senna is more than just a legend to motorsport fans, but also an inspiration to mankind.


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