As I write this review, 16 of Europe's best national teams are playing each other in Switzerland and Austria, hoping to claim the trophy as the best team of the Union of European Football Associations, or UEFA, in a tournament played every four years, similar to the World Cup that plays in a similar recurrence and hosts 32 of the world's best. Ironically though, while the Euro tournament is arguably the most widely known regional tournament of national teams, any debate about individual players starts with two players from South America: Brazil's Pele and Argentina's Diego Maradona. Most of the world eagerly gives Pele the "world's greatest" title, but Argentinians will gladly make the case for Diego Maradona, and it's that passion that is the genesis for Amando A Maradona, or Loving Maradona.
Loving Maradona examines the life and memorable events of Maradona, featuring interviews with Maradona and some of his most passionate supporters. When I say passion, I can't state this enough. Maradona's visage and signature is a tattoo on many South American fans. People pray to Maradona as part of a religious ceremony. A wide variety of songs praising Maradona's accomplishments have been recorded. The field on which he played as a boy in the slums of Argentina is being held as some sort of historical monument. When Maradona was dismissed from the 1994 World Cup, his fans took to the streets in anger and inconsolable tears. Through all of Maradona's faults in his life, they've stuck it out with him through thick and thin.
Born on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Maradona was spotted early in his life by scouts and played with a local Argentinian club named Argentinos Juniors in his teens before moving onto the internationally known Boca Juniors club in Argentina when he was 21. He moved to Europe a year later to play for Barcelona, and after a tumultuous two years with them, moved to Napoli of the Italian league. The team's stadium was packed to welcome the star to Italy, before he even laced a together pair of shoes. He played with them for seven years before leaving the league after a suspension for cocaine and eventually retired in 1997. His international exploits were also exceptional; he led Argentina to a Youth World Championship at 18 before captaining the national team to the 1986 World Cup. The team almost successfully defended its trophy in 1990, before losing to West Germany, whom the Argentines beat in '86. He played in the 1994 World Cup, but as I mentioned earlier, was dismissed from the team due to a positive drug test for ephedrine.
Loving Maradona appears to have been shot with and obtained the cooperation of the man himself. The problem in that is that it appears to be using a little bit of revisionist history; it tackles some of Maradona's previous behavior, but when it comes to the '94 World Cup, there appear to be a few people waving the "conspiracy theory" flag rather aggressively. I mean come on, looking within the context of Maradona's life for a second, he was several years removed from a cocaine-induced suspension, and since '94 has been in and out of rehab centers and suffered a heart attack from an overdose in 2004. His own website mentions the drug suspension at Napoli as "a doping affair that is still suspicious." In interviews now, he sports a bit of a spare tire and almost looks like Marlon Brando, with the paunch and some of his facial features. While it is a little unfair to ask him to stay at 150 pounds his whole life, the look he has today is somewhat jarring, and perhaps sad, given what he was able to accomplish on the field, which is in some ways a reflection of his personality. He is owner of perhaps the greatest goal in World Cup History, negotiating his way through half the English team in 1986. He's also owner of the most infamous goal in World Cup history, when his "Hand of God" score went in the net. It just so happens that both goals occurred in the same game.
In this film, which runs approximately 64 minutes, we get to understand a little bit of why Maradona is so beloved in his homeland. He gives people a chance to believe in the dream, that they could come from the slums and transcend into superstardom. His persona was much like that, frequently rebelling against authority, in part because of how he grew up. While he fed the fervor the Argentine press had for him as a national hero, the balance he tried to strike of being a private person was difficult for him to achieve. The end of the film is a little more ironic, he does embrace and enjoy how his life is nowadays, yet since the 2004 hospital incident he was back in the hospital in 2007 to treat the effects of alcohol abuse. Hopefully this incident will be the last time we see Maradona in the hospital; even though his playing days are behind him, he still has a load of good that he could give to the world of football, and hopefully the football world will welcome him once again.
Loving Maradona is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The feature pulls from various film sources over the years and even the feature's main subject is interviewed in handheld shots sometimes, with a glancing shot of his face now and then. But, considering how many different clips are pulled together, things look good.
Spanish Dolby Stereo for this production and there are English subtitles to boot. The audio quietly creeps up on you during the latter part of the production, when the chants and songs for Maradona start to show up more in the rear speakers, but the source noise is reproduced adequately overall, which is all you can really ask of a documentary.
There's a trailer for the film, along with some additional interview footage and footage that didn't make the final cut, but they are without subtitles, so the only thing I can really say is that there's not a lot of that footage to speak of, even for a feature that's barely an hour long.
While Loving Maradona is an interesting look at the life and times of Diego Maradona, it's hardly a complete look, and it's definitely a one-sided one. If you're interested in the athlete, this is a good jumping off point, but not the "be all end all" look at "Diegoal."