Friday, 10 June 2011

Senna: a Brazilian hero

Memory is a funny thing. I think I can remember watching the Grand Prix race in which Brazilian racing legend Ayrton Senna tragically died, but I can't be sure. What I do remember is the image of the crash, but this could be because it was broadcast across every TV channel in Brazil for days, as the entire country went into mourning. He was - and still is - a national hero. I'm yet to see the film about him, but Baydr Yadallee, account director at digital agency Jigsaw, my friend, blogger and film buff, has. Here is his brilliant review of the film.

"After Pelé, Ayrton Senna is probably the most famous Brazilian that I know of, at least certainly in my lifetime. He is of course remembered for being a world champion Formula 1 racing driver, and tragically for a life cut short after an accident whilst racing in 1994. I vividly recall watching that race at the time, and 17 years after that event I went to watch the new documentary about him, Senna, at the cinema last night.

The documentary focuses on his life from breaking on to the F1 scene in 1984, to his untimely death at Imola 10 years later. This is all told through the use of archive footage from the time, and using voiceovers from friends, family and sports commentators. What is clever (and ultimately compelling) is that the film never breaks to the present, or gives the viewer a retrospective of his career. You’re on a journey with Senna as his career in F1 unfolds: becoming a multiple world champion, his great rivalry with Alain Prost (very much painted as the villain of the piece) and his battles with the F1 authorities. In between the F1 season, you get a chance to see home video footage of Senna home in Brazil with girlfriends, friends and as well as interviews with his fellow countrymen where you see the effect of his success on the population.

Time in the film slows down for the final third as we follow the fateful weekend at Imola. Senna seems genuinely disturbed by events as they unfold and seems uncharacteristically unnerved as he sits on the grid waiting for the race to start. As you might imagine, the end of the film is particularly emotional and you get a sense of the impact his death brought to the sport and fans around the world.

The film succeeds in giving a sense of what Ayrton Senna was like as man: ambitious, ruthless, kind, fearless, a devout belief in God, but most of all a love of racing. There is a fantastic bit near the end of the film where a journalist asks him who is the greatest driver he has faced, past or present. After thinking about for a second, Senna goes on talk about British driver called Terry Fullerton who he raced back in the days when he was driving go-karts. At his best, he was the greatest driver in the world. But seemingly he was happiest driving karts, for the thrill of racing."


  1. Can honestly say that this was the best action film (without meaning to be) that I have ever seen. Using real footage with just a little grain added and pumped up car volume, it was fantastic. Not to mention the general 70's cinema verite feel of his fantastic, albeit too short, life.

  2. I will make sure I see it next week - it's had amazing reviews. Really pleased you liked it. Thanks for your comments.


  3. The film actually also had a great score, which while subtle, really added to the drama.

    It was also amazing just how much unseen footage the film makers had gathered, not just the home videos but of the pre-race meetings, etc.