Senna (Asif Kapadia):
Ayrton Senna is still regarded as one of the finest drivers in Formula One history. His death following a heavy crash during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix was one of the darkest days in the sports history, and triggered radical changes to safety regulations. Directed by Asif Kapadia, Senna focuses on the Brazilian’s 10 years in Formula One, where he won three world titles. Rather than the conventional talking head style of documentary, Senna features the voices of people who were there, discussing the impact and style (and lifestyle) of Ayrton Senna, over archive footage. It shows his brilliance as a driver, as well as the controversial moments of his career, including his bitter feud with Alain Prost, and tense driver meetings with F1 president Jean-Marie Balestre.
The documentary shows Senna as a complex man. A true racer, willing to take risks and push his car to the limits on track, he was also concerned by driver safety, at a time when serious injuries and heavy crashes were far more common in F1. It also shows how revered he is in Brazil, a national hero at a time when his country was in crisis. The in-car footage from the San Marino GP is a haunting portrayal of the last moments of Senna’s life. Senna’s legacy in F1 lives on, but this documentary transcends the sport.
Catching Hell (Alex Gibney):
Alex Gibney’s film focuses on a man named Steve Bartman. Until October of 2003, Bartman was just an ordinary man, a quiet baseball fan, who loved to watch the Chicago Cubs. But one incident changed his life forever. In a game that would send the Cubs to the World Series for the first time since 1945 if they won, Bartman reached for a ball headed for the stands, and knocked it away from a Cubs outfielder, who looked like he could have caught the ball. The Cubs were leading 3-0 at the time, but the Marlins scored 8 unanswered runs and won the next two games to knock the Cubs out.
Bartman quickly found his life had been changed. He was made a scapegoat for the Cubs defeat, and received death threats. Gibney’s documentary explores the concept of a scapegoat, looking at Bill Buckner, a first baseman for the Boston Red Sox, made a scapegoat by Boston fans after a mistake in the 1986 World Series lead to a Red Sox loss against the New York Mets, who won the series. Although Bartman refused to be interviewed, it’s a fascinating insight into the mentality of sports fans and a baseball documentary that even people who don’t like the sport can enjoy.
Cave Of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog):
In a world of Transformers 3 and comic book adaptations, Werner Herzog stands out as a film-maker doing his own thing on his own terms. Equally comfortable with fiction and fact, his prolific output regularly includes documentaries, and Cave Of Forgotten Dreams is one of his best.
The Chauvet cave in southern France is home to the oldest cave paintings ever discovered, estimated to be between 25,000 and 32,000 years old. In order to film inside the cave, Herzog had to secure permission from the French Minister of Culture, and could only work as part of a three man team, using specific types of equipment in order to preserve the conditions inside the cave. Having previously called 3D “a gimmick of the commercial cinema”, Herzog decided to use it after first visiting the cave. And it is 3D as it should be used. It is used to show the depth and scale of the cave, as well as the shape and curves of the rocks on which the paintings are daubed. The paintings are incredible, perfectly preserved and beautifully rendered. Narrated by Herzog himself, he offers his thoughts on what the paintings represent and their place in the history of man. It is a beautiful film made in a spectacular setting, and a must-see in 2D or 3D.