by director Asif Kapadia
Why make a movie about Ayrton Senna? Why make a film about someone who drives in circles at 200mph in a giant cigarette packet? How do you make his story epic, thrilling, funny and inspirational? Most importantly, do you make it engaging and emotional for people who don't like Formula One, people who have never seen a race in their life or people who have never heard of Ayrton Senna?
Just some of the thoughts racing through my mind when I first met the producer James Gay Rees and the writer/executive producer Manish Pandey when they offered me the chance to direct Senna.
Of course I leapt at the chance to make the film; there was something special about Senna and I would be crazy to pass up the opportunity.
It is worth mentioning that I am a big sport fan, but I am no authority on Formula One; I used to watch it on TV. I remembered Senna’s rivalry with Alain Prost, which was up there with Ali/Frazier and Borg/McEnroe, one of those great sporting rivalries where two geniuses came head to head at the same time.
So working closely with James, Manish, our editors Gregers Sall and Chris King, a team of researchers around the world led by archive producer Paul Bell, and our composer Antonio Pinto, the long journey of creating Senna began.
What I learnt along the way is that Ayrton Senna was the perfect character to make a movie about; he is intelligent, eloquent, charismatic, good looking, charming, spiritual, passionate and most of all a winner. Ayrton stood up for what he believed in and he fought politics and corruption.
We were originally told there was little chance of a cinematic release in the United States, as "no one watches Formula One there, and no one has heard of Ayrton Senna." The creative team behind Senna never believed this. We knew there were fans out there, but on the other hand we felt that you didn’t have to be an F1 fan to be moved and inspired by Ayrton’s story. So we premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011; using Facebook and Twitter Manish Pandey and I spread the word that Senna was showing and quickly word of mouth spread and every screening swiftly sold out.
Senna won the World Cinema Audience Award for Documentary at Sundance. The film had a standing ovation at SXSW in Austin and won the Audience prize for Best International Feature at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Perhaps there is an audience for Senna in the U.S. after all!
Finally, Senna is opening across the U.S. at Landmark Theatres and everyone has the chance to see why Ayrton’s inspirational story is so cinematic, so visceral and dramatic and why it is a film for all; men, women, young and old, racing fans and importantly people who cannot stand sport or racing of any kind, because Ayrton Senna is a genuine star who transcended sport.