Senna film combines racing thrills with raw emotion

Wed Jun 1, 2011 9:02am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A new documentary on the late Brazilian Formula One champion Ayrton Senna combines the thrill of high speed racing with a touching portrait of the man behind the wheel, using unseen footage from on and off the track.

"Senna," which hits British theatres Friday, paints a picture of a man who was passionate about his sport and sure of his talent but also frustrated at what he saw as political meddling in a world where money and technology had taken over.

Already a world champion and global star, he longingly recalled his days as a karting driver in the late 70s and early 80s, telling an interviewer that racing in those days was pure.

For British director Asif Kapadia, it was his first full documentary in which he eschewed talking heads and focused instead on Senna -- in the car, at the track, in feisty drivers' meetings, surrounded by screaming fans or at home with family and friends in Brazil.

"I felt there was something very special about this person," Kapadia told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Senna combined a deep spirituality, close relationship with his parents and professional integrity with the life of a global pin-up boy, and by showing his emotion during the good times and the bad he endeared himself to millions.

"If you don't know about him, then you should do," said Kapadia, who made the film for everyone, not just racing fans. "His life was thrilling, exciting and inspirational: he fought the system and corruption and stood up for a lot of good things.

"He was a special guy and what he stood for away from the track was almost more impressive than his genius in the car."   Continued...

<p>Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna listens to a technician before a test drive in a Williams Renault car in Portugal REUTERS/Benoit Doppagne 20/01/1994</p>