I’m not too sure what Manish Pandey and Asif Kapadia did in directing this documentary on the life and death of Ayrton Senna, as the real work was surely done by editors Chris King and Gregers Sall. Senna is a feature-length documentary with no talking heads or reconstructions, instead made up entirely of existing footage. Luckily Ayrton Senna was filmed extensively and from hundreds of angles so the editors had plenty to work with.
The finished film truly is a masterpiece of editing, the story of Senna comes together so well as to make it seem as though his was filmed with this documentary in mind. Senna goes from an enthusiastic young driver to a man jaded by the politics of racing and his feud with Alain Prost bring a good through line to the piece.
The proof in Senna‘s pudding is that it managed to draw me in, someone who has no interest in Formula 1 and I’m hardly the only one. Senna is more than a film about racing, it is a film about one man living his dream and it ultimately disappointing and later killing him. The death of Ayrton is not glorified or replayed and the funeral is a particularly moving piece of cinema.
Senna is not perfect, it is 16 minutes too long and is guilty of idolising its subject a little too much, balance and objectivity are not in abundance. Regardless, this is a rare treat of a documentary and will be enjoyed by a Formula 1 fan and their disinterested date alike.