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Having already chronicled the lives and untimely deaths of both Aryten Senna and Amy Winehouse to international acclaim (Amy is currently frontrunner to win this year’s documentary feature awards at both the Oscars and BAFTAs), British filmmaker Asif Kapadia has set his sights on another cultural icon for his next doc.
This time, however, he’s very much alive (also he’s sadly come close to death on a couple of occasions).
Maradona, as the titles suggests, will focus on Diego Maradona, the legendary Argentinean soccer player often considered the greatest the sport has ever produced and a man whose prowess on the field was so admired that he even has a religion – Church of Maradona – created in his him. Working closely with Maradona’s estate, Kapadia will direct, with his Amy collaborators James Gay-Rees producing and Chris King editing.
The film will look closely into the sportsman’s wildly celebrated time at Italian club Napoli, with the help of hundreds of hours of never-before-seen footage taken from his personal archive.
Having joined Napoli in 1984 for a then world record fee of $10.48 million (the second time he had broken this record), Maradona would be hailed almost as a god after guiding them to their first championship title, a feat he’d later repeat, alongside several other major trophies. During this time, considered the peak of his professional career, he would also win the World Cup for Argentina in 1986, scoring what would later be described as the ‘Goal of the Century’ against England. However, the period was also marred by controversy, with increased cocaine use, a scandal involving an illegitimate son and reported links to the local mafia. Maradona would ultimately leave Napoli in 1992 in disgrace after a 15-month ban for failing a drug test, but the club would retire his number 10 shirt in his honor.
The film, which is being fully financed by fledgling U.K. outfit Lorton Entertainment, will be produced by Kapadia and Gay-Rees’ On The Corner banner alongside producer Paul Martin (Ronaldo).
British sales and distribution company Altitude has global sales rights and will be taking Maradona to the EFM, while domestic sales are being handled by Cinetic Media. It’s expected to be a hot ticket given the internationally-regarded subject matter and Kapadia’s success with Amy, which became the U.K.’s most successful doc with international earnings in excess of $25 million. Altitude will also be distributing the film in the U.K., as it did with Amy.
Speaking about the project, Kapadia said he had long been a fan of Maradona, and had wanted to make a film about the man even before he started the doc Senna.
“I was taken by his character, his genius, honesty, passion, humor and vulnerability,” he said. “I was fascinated by his journey, wherever he went there were moments of incredible brilliance and drama, he was a leader, taking his teams to the very top, but also many lows in his career. He was always the little guy fighting against the system, against the wealthy, the powerful and he was willing to do anything, to use all of his cunning and intelligence to win.”
Cinetic founder John Sloss said the arrival of the project was very timely.
“Soccer, er….football is at long last exploding in America. Cinetic is blessed to have taken the ride with Asif, James and Chris on both Amy and Senna, and there are no storytellers on earth better equipped to capture the complexity and brilliance of Maradona.”
Alongside Maradona, Kapadia and his team are also prepping a doc on the British rock group Oasis. The untitled film will be directed by Mat Whitecross, with Kapadia exec producing and Gay-Rees producing. Independent is handling international sales, with eOne, in partnership with Lorton Distribution, taking U.K. rights.
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