Thursday, September 1, 2011

Senna (2010)


Racecar drivers only get documentaries if they die unexpectedly while in the racecar.  Subscribing to this theory, I expect the Dale Earnhardt story any day now.  However, the story of Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna has nothing to do with NASCAR, but the world wide racing circuit of Formula One in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Senna won the World Championship an astounding three times, put all of his faith in God (to the annoyance of some other drivers), and saw no purpose for being happy with 3rd, 4th, or 5th place.  He said if you do not race to win, then why race at all?
The documentary shows Senna’s early success on the go-kart circuit and believes this was Senna’s favorite sort of racing.  Unlike Formula One, the go-karts contained no politics or money; it was pure racing.  Senna did not like politics, most likely because he was not very good at it.  The most engrossing part of his story is the back and forth severely competitive race Senna had on and off the track with Frenchman and sometimes teammate Alain Prost.  Prost is a four time World Champion and these two men grew to despise one another. 
There were accusations of intentional crashes, poor sportsmanship, and collusion on the part of Prost.  Both Prost and the Formula One President at the time were French and the film makes a definite point that these two might have been conspiring against Senna in particular situations and rulings.  Prost would criticize Senna in the press that his total faith in God put him and other drivers in danger on the track because he though himself immortal.  Senna certainly did drive fast and pushed his car to its mechanical limits.
Pushing himself and his vehicle to those limits finally earned him a win at his home country track in Brazil.  The video of Senna hysterically screaming and the crowd going nuts is still resonant all these years later.  Senna was a Brazilian hero and gave a lot of hope and joy to his native countrymen.  He was constantly mobbed on the street and was one of his country’s most famous celebrities.  He may have been even more loved in Japan where near riots would break out when he would come there to race.  The videos and interviews unearthed for this documentary are top notch.  The filmmakers show the audience a driven, ambitious, and at times emotionally and physically exhausted Senna.  At the end, you really wish there was another race for Senna to run. 

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