Senna (2010)

The usual IMDB Plot:

A documentary on Brazilian Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna, who won the F1 world championship three times before his death at age 34.

The usual spoiler alert… Wait a freaking second, this is documentary! It’s like asking to not spoil the result of the World War II.

So I finally watched the documentary that, at some point, was said to be the “highest rated documentary on IMDB” (although today it doesn’t even appear in the first page). I reckon it didn’t catch much attention around, as most people are not Formula 1 fans and most people are not Brazilians in their mid twenties or older.

So, let me put this (and specially that last phrase) in context: It was the late 80s, early 90s and Brazil was still recovering from a military dictatorship. Inflation was growing like crazy and the feeling from the general population wasn’t so happy. So there was a great need for a circus (the bread part was a bit harder) and, at this time, this guy, who raced in one of the most expensive racing sports, was considered brilliant by experts and would say he was Brazilian any time he had the chance and displayed the Brazilian flag proudly on every victory and that gave the Brazilian people some hope.

(And people forgot the fact that he came from a very wealthy family — he was the 1%, or even the 0.1% at the time — but remember fondly his Foundation, created to help poor kids, which only existed after he became famous.)

The problem with this documentary is mostly the way it was edited, to give a more “drama!” vision of the events: You have the hero, the rival and the evil.

The hero is, obviously, Ayrton Senna. They show how the people loved him, how impressive his driving was, how he was a bon vivant…You know, the guy you want to be (or have a close friend). In no point, the documentary shows anything negative about him — and, honestly, I think the Brazilian press shielded things like that pretty nicely, as I can’t remember anything bad about him.

The rival is Alain Prost, who Senna had problems since the very beginning of his career. I remember that, recently, someone asked Prost his opinion about the movie and he said that it painted him as the bad guy and I totally agree with his commentary. There is this bad light put over his shoulders in the movie, his driving skills are mentioned hastily and without depth and there is absolutely no word about his personal life. But, again, a good drama needs an antagonist and Prost was used for this. Oh, not only that, but in the very end, when they talk about Senna’s death, Prost is shown helping carry the casket and with distraught face; the bad guy turned to be a good guy in the end. As I said, just so it feels like a real drama movie.

The evil is Jean-Marie Balestre, president of the FIA at the time Senna was racing. The movie goes great lengths to show that Balestre did everything in his power to grant Prost victories over Senna and would take any chance to block the Brazilian progress in the sport. The movie also cleverly does this 2 years after Balestre’s death, so he had to way, as Prost did, to give some words about it. I’ll give the chance of doubt to the filmmakers, as (maybe) Balestre was a total dick (as the movie portraits him) after all, but one has to ask if such thing was really necessary for a documentary.

In the end, it’s a good documentary to remember Senna (if you actually remember seeing him driving) or to get some insight from one of the most known personas in Formula 1. Otherwise, it’s just an average documentary with too much drama and little documentary.