Early in the making of “Senna” — the adrenaline-charged movie about Ayrton Senna, the great Brazilian Formula One champ — director Asif Kapadia realized that “there was something other-worldly about him and what racing enabled him to feel.”

To convey that transcendent emotion, Kapadia eschewed dramatic recreations or talking heads and exploited as much actual footage of Senna as possible, both from home videos and professional coverage of races and the whole Grand Prix scene. He filled the soundtrack with Senna’s own words, and those of his friends, family, competitors and colleagues.

The result is a dynamic documentary epic, outsize in passion and imagery and electric in its pacing. But it also boasts an easy intimacy with its subject. Cameras owned by Formula One Management recorded the drivers at every step of Grand Prix weekends, including official briefings and team meetings.

Because the drivers knew that representatives of the sport, not the press, were photographing them, they never clammed up or got self-conscious.”The drivers are being totally honest when they argue,” Kapadia said. “Now, before they really become sports figures, they’ve got a PR person telling them how to do interviews. And they’ve got Facebook and Twitter.”

Don’t put off seeing “Senna” this weekend. Richard Abramowitz, one of the crack team bringing this European smash to American theaters, admitted that it performed disappointingly in its local debut on Baltimore’s Grand Prix/Labor Day weekend. But he’s hopeful that it will build a big audience here on word of mouth.

“Perhaps the Harbor East was hurt by the very event that might have generated business,” Abramowitz said in an email. “People may have stayed away from that part of town because of the race. On the other hand, business post-race is good, so it seems like the film’s inherent playability will win the day.”

source: © The Baltimore Sun