Senna – Dirty Champion?, You Decide! (movie review)

Three-time world Formula One driving champion Ayrton Senna, as he sits in his Williams F1 racing machine. Image Credit: Working Title Productions


Senna – Dirty Champion?, You Decide!

Senna, the documentary-style movie, is a beautiful work of taking existing film footage and piecing together a seamless reflection of the passionate pursuit of a talented race car driver. It exposes us to a life pursuit where driving, and winning at the highest pinnacle of a discipline, is the only thing that mattered to a life couched in a strong spiritual connection with GOD. In Ayrton Senna’s case, rightfully so.

This excerpted and edited from the producer’s release notes –

For producer Eric Fellner, co-chairman of Working Title, SENNA proved a true labor of love and added a new dimension to the company by being the first documentary it would make.

“I used to be a fan like a lot of people and then lapsed, but from this period in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, I was absolutely fascinated and intrigued by Formula One,” he says. “I just really wanted to make a film about that world and had met with Bernie Ecclestone to try to find to find a way in and couldn’t. We have never done a documentary before but this seemed the best medium to make a film about Formula One.”

When the producers brought director Asif Kapadia on board, they knew they were hiring a talented filmmaker. The director of BAFTA winning feature ‘The Warrior’ and the thriller ‘Far North’, Kapadia is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, and has an eye for exquisite composition. Pandey says, “We interviewed a lot of directors for this. There was a lot of interest to do this project, but Asif got it right away.”

Kapadia, while a sports fan, was not an F1 enthusiast and proved to have a completely unbiased approach to the producers’ subject matter. “Before the film, I had never read a book on Senna, never looked at one motor sports web site and never read a book on Formula One,” begins the director. “I had never been to a race. So that’s where I came in to it – having a fresh set of eyes on the material.”

“I could see that Senna was an amazing driver and had this deep spiritual side, which was really fascinating, and it became all about paring the film down to the bare minimum so that somebody who has never heard of Senna will get the film, understand the character and actually be moved by his story.” He smiles. “It’s all about character.”

“His story is amazing, and we have this great three-act structure to work with,” says Kapadia. “You have his rise, his success, and then the challenges he faces when he gets to the top. There is the ‘bad guy’ Jean-Marie Balestre (France’s head of F1 racing), and the rival with four World Champion titles Alain Prost. Then there’s Senna’s personal side – his family, his girlfriends, the relationship he has with Brazil. There’s tension, drama, tragedy. It is absolutely what films should be, and it is all real.”

“If you had written this story as fiction, you would say that it is a clever piece of writing,” smiles the director. “One year Prost crashes into Senna at the slowest point of the track, in such a way that his own car was not even damaged. The following year, Senna crashes into Prost at one of the fastest points of the track, saying, ‘I don’t care what happens, I am going for it.’ It is very interesting how you are what you do and Senna and Prost’s characters are revealed by these two accidents.”

A re-creation of a Senna helmet design sighted at the pre-premiere pizza party put on by MAZDASPEED Motorsports. The helmet was the work of Scott A. Crawford – SAC Design. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2011)

Before going into last night’s pre-release screening of Senna at the EDWARDS WESTPARK8 in Irvine (arranged by Dean Case and the folks at MAZDASPEED Motorsports), one conversation that was overheard stated that it was too bad that Ayrton Senna needed to intentionally take out Alain Prost in order to achieve a world championship in the last race of the season at the Japan GP … it was a dirty move. This was a remarkable statement to overhear going in … because it expressed the passion of someone who had decided exactly what had happened on the track during the second contact accident the two rivals shared.

The surprise and artful twist in this presentation brings this perception into question – Was Senna a dirty champion, or not?

There is a sage & age old adage in Hollywood that states … “the camera never lies!” This adage, of course, is based on non-CGI (computer generated images) and relates to the truth that film images can, and will deliver.

Senna is a very wonderful movie and story well told, especially when one considers all of the film images that were gleaned from archives (the on-board shots were gold) in order to make this 104 minute, PG-13 movie. Go see Senna for yourself and at the end, after seeing the film images, development, and exposure to the three time Formula One world champion, ask yourself … Was Ayrton Senna a dirty champion? … then decide!

You will never regret the experience.

Set for release in specific theaters on the following schedule:

August 12 – Los Angeles, CA – The Landmark

August 12 – New York, NY – Landmark Sunshine Cinema

August 19 – Austin, TX – Violet Crown Cinema

August 19 – Berkeley, CA – Landmark Shattuck Cinemas

August 19 – Cambridge, MA – Landmark Kendall Square Cinema

August 19 – Chicago, IL – Landmark Century Centre Cinema

August 19 – Detroit, MI – Landmark Main Art Theater

August 19 – Irvine, CA – Edwards Westpark 8

August 19 – Miami, FL – AMC Sunset Place 24

August 19 – Nashville, TN – Belcourt Theater

August 19 – Philadelphia, PA – Landmark Ritz at the Bourse

August 19 – San Francisco, CA – Landmark Embarcadero CTR

August 19 – San Rafael, CA – Rafael Film Center

August 19 – Washington, DC – Landmark E Street Cinema

August 26 – Atlanta, GA – Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

August 26 – Dallas, TX – Angelika Film Center

August 26 – Denver, CO – Landmark Chez Artistes

August 26 – Indianapolis, IN – Landmark Keystone Art Cinema

August 26 – Minneapolis, MN – Landmark Uptown Cinema

August 26 – Palm Springs, CA – Cinémas Palme d’Or

August 26 – Palo Alto, CA – Aquarius Theater

August 26 – Portland, OR – Regal Fox Tower Stadium

August 26 – San Diego, CA – Landmark Hillcrest Cinema

August 26 – Scottsdale, AZ – Harkin’s Camelview 5

August 26 – Seattle, WA – Landmark Varsity Theater

September 2 – Charlotte, NC – Park Terrace

September 2 – Knoxville, TN – Regal Downtown West Cinema

September 2 – St Louis, MO – Landmark Tivoli Theater

September 16 – Kansas City, MO – Tivoli Theater

September 16 – Las Vegas, NV – Regal Cinemas Village Square

September 16 – Milwaukee, WI – Landmark Downer Theatre

September 23 – Santa Fe, NM UA – DeVargas Mall

For more information, go to –

Universal Pictures and Producers Distribution Agency Present
in association with ESPN Films
a Working Title Production
in association with Midfield Films


Directed by Asif Kapadia
Written by Manish Pandey

Audience Award World Cinema Documentary
2011 Sundance Film Festival

Audience Award for Best International Feature
2011 Los Angeles Film Festival


… notes from The EDJE

[Article first published as Senna – Dirty Champion? You Decide!on Technorati]

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