Senna showing at Nenagh Arts Centre as part of the Nenagh Film Club

Award winning motor-racing documentary ‘Senna’ screens at Nenagh Arts Centre

Recently awarded the BAFTA for Best Documentary, Asif Kapadia’s film ‘Senna’ details the life and untimely death of the Brazilian motor-racing legend. The film screens at Nenagh Arts Centre on Thursday 1st March.

Ayrton Senna exploded onto the scene of one of the world’s most popular sports just as suddenly as he would leave it, and in the years between, became a national hero in his native Brazil and one of the most revered figures ever to speed around a Grand Prix track.

Charming and fun-loving, Senna was easy to embrace as a hero of Formula One during the early 90’s and the film focuses more on the driver’s passions and emotions than the dense mechanics of his sport, to the viewer’s advantage.

Director Asif Kapadia and his editors, Chris King and Gregers Sall, pored through what must have been mountains of film and videotape to construct a portrait of Senna entirely out of archival footage. The clips include news programs, home movies and race footage from both outside and inside the cars. What emerges is a narrative as neatly constructed as any fictional film, with Senna as the noble hero facing off against adversaries on and off the track.

Senna is presented as the devout, God-fearing and humble figure who stands as a shining symbol of hope for a poverty-stricken nation desperate for a hero. That he fails at the political machinations that govern racing off the track only reinforces his interest in the purity of the sport. His rival, Alain Prost, comes off as a scheming opportunist with the favour of the sport’s leadership. The truth may not be quite that simple, but Kapadia’s slightly ecstatic version of it makes for gripping viewing.

‘Senna’ could have been a by-the-numbers sports documentary, one that offered plenty of testimonials to the driver’s genius behind the wheel, as well as primers on the particulars of Formula One. But Kapadia’s method swerves around both pitfalls. The expert editing of the disparate audio and video sources provide more illustration than straight interviews ever could. Meanwhile, the compelling human drama — the team rivalries, Senna’s meteoric rise to the top, his struggle to stay there make this a fascinating documentary both about a sport and one of its heroes.

‘Senna’ screens at Nenagh Arts Centre at 8 p.m. on Thursday 1st March. Tickets are €7 through the Arts Centre in Banba Square on 067 34400 or can be booked online atwww.nenagharts.com

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