Directed by: Asif Kapadia

I can appreciate fast cars, great driving, and a story well told.  So I'm not sure why I waited for Daniel Ferreiro to recommend Senna twice before I watched it.

Primarily comprised of footage from the 1980s and early 90s, this documentary introduced me to one of the Formula One greats – a driver named Ayrton Senna.  Footage from Senna's early days competing in karting races, in-car cameras from F1 races and telecasts give the viewer a taste of the excitement surrounding this young driver.

I have seen a fair amount of documentaries, and this by far was one of the most compelling I've seen. The way the audio and video segments were carefully chosen and seamlessly woven together allow Senna to tell his own story.  You see his competitive drive on the track, his frustration at FIA politics and the ease he feels at home in Brazil enjoying boating and waterskiing when not racing.  The voices of friends, family, teammates, team owners, reporters work as narration, not as disruptive and boring 'talking heads.'

The film winds you up during the races with the buzz of the cars circling the track, spitting sparks and whizzing by at ridiculous speed, the announcers' shouts as Senna pulls into the lead with a risky yet rewarding move, the elation the win from a cockpit view.  It shows you the boyishly mischevious side of Senna, flirting with female reporters and celebrities who flirt right back with this handsome F1 world champion.  You feel the tension of Senna's rivalry with Alain Proust and his incredible drive to win as well as the stress of situations surrounding his last Grand Prix.

Senna gives so many insights into the true personality of this man – more than just a phenomenal driver, a hero to the Brazilian people, a compassionate person, a religious man, a heartthrob, an outspoken advocate for safety and fairness in F1, a son, a brother, but also a person with hopes and dreams beyond his racing career.  All these pieces make the conclusion even more poignant.

I enjoyed this film so much that I barely realized there are some segments with subtitles.  So highly recommended that I'm going to give you ample reasons to put this one in the queue and move it up to #1.

If you:

  • Have any reverence for automotive history and knowledge
  • Appreciate a competitive spirit
  • Like a semi-rebellious good guy who campaigns passionately for fairness and dislikes the political game
  • Long for a fast-paced documentary that keeps focus on the most important and interesting parts of a person's story
  • Get a kick out of a first-person/car cam

Put it in the queue!

However if you,

  • Want more of a Kitty Kelly style tell-all
  • Don't like to drive fast or watching automotive racing

Don't put it in the queue.