Thursday, 9 June 2011


When did this start to happen? When did it become acceptable to pay to see documentaries? (I think Michael Moore may have something to do with it). There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with Senna. It just belongs on BBC2 at 9pm on a Tuesday. It is nothing of an event and certainly not a reason to leave your home for. If you pay cinema admission for this film you are being conned. It is an ugly piece of crap made up from cruddy video footage that should not be forced upon anyone on a large screen. Don’t get me wrong, I love documentary and more specifically, the feature length documentary format. But not all documentaries belong in cinemas.

The film is an exercise in editing from director Asif Kapadian who didn’t shoot anything but simply pieced together archive clips. Kapadia eschews talking heads, instead laying audio interviews over the footage. The style does work and he tells the story coherently. Be that as it may, it’s a wearisome tale. Ayrton Senna was a talented driver from Brazil who, for much of his career, engaged in a rivalry with Alan Prost. Prost was a smarmy Frenchman who I think we – the audience - are supposed to want to crash and die. Senna himself was tragically killed in a race, aged 34. He also seems to have been an all-round decent guy. It is a very attractive portrait of a man who lived fast, died young and left a good-looking corpse.

One of the problems is that as with so many “sports personalities” (a contradiction in terms if there ever was one) the man was a charisma vacuum. The film attempts to accord him iconic status but I doubt Mohammed Ali will be losing any sleep. The postscript implies a kind of martyrdom which simply doesn’t wash with this reviewer. The guy was a walking billboard. (I should have mentioned Senna is brought to you by Shell, Marlboro, Rothmans and JPS to mention just a few of the swathes of companies you are visually assaulted by.) It’s pitiful to see grown men plastered in so much advertising. They have less integrity than Julius Francis who – in anticipation of being knocked out by Tyson - sold advertising space on the soles of his feet. At least Francis – unlike Senna et al - spent some of the time not looking like a complete whore.


  1. This is the first negative review of 'Senna' that I've come across. Sad news. I thought you loved Brazilians.

    I'll have to disagree with you documentaries in the cinema argument though. For your consideration as films worthy of Cinema :
    When We Were Kings.
    The Last Waltz.
    Grizzly Man.
    Man on Wire.
    Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
    The Thin Blue Line.
    Buena Vista Social Club.
    Waltz with Bashir.
    Bowling for Columbine.
    The King of Kong.

    Even 'Shine A Light' while a poor film still looks fantastic and would benefit more from cinema release than TV.

    That's just a list off the top of my head and in the interests of openness I saw most on DVD. But all I would have happily paid to see at the Cinema ahead of most of the crap fiction films I have seen.

  2. Mmm... I'm on Will's side on the whole documentaries in cinema debate. However, The Last Waltz in the cinema I imagine is pretty good, and perhaps When we were Kings. Being shot on 35mm helps, Senna, judging by the trailer was all old video footage which didn't stand up at all to the big screen. I am basing this purely on the trailer though, which I saw before "Hanna". Hanna and Senna: Now there's a double bill.