CANNES – Sarajevo filmmaker Emir Kusturica gives Argentine football legend Diego Maradona a big wet kiss in his Out of Competition documentary “Maradona by Kusturica”.
In thrall to the iconic soccer wizard, the director makes the film as much about his simplistic politics and idolizing fans as about his playing career.
Kusturica gets Maradona talking about his rags-to-riches rise to fame and the cocaine addiction that he says prevented him from being an even greater player, and shows him in the cocoon of a loving family. But the director puts himself in the film quite a bit and it leaves the impression that, as many men would, he just wanted to hang out with one of his sporting heroes and brag about it.
The film will do very well in parts of the world where soccer is king and among those who share its anti-British and anti-American sentiments. General sports fans will be disappointed by how little actual game footage there is with many goals shown but no information about when or where.
Except, that is for the two goals Maradona scored for Argentina against England on the way to winning the World Cup tournament in 1978. He scored one by cheating, using what he famously described as “the hand of God.” The second resulted from a mesmerizing drive past several defenders and is labeled in the film the goal of the 20th century. They are both repeated several times.
Kusturica joins Maradona in his view that handling the ball was poetic justice for all the sins of the colonial English and lets him ramble on about his love for Fidel Castro and hatred of George Bush.
The film includes footage of social protest in South America and the Balkans and there are five cartoons targeting such hated enemies as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan accompanied by the Sex Pistols’ track “God Save the Queen,” to what end it’s not entirely clear.
This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.