I just want to start by saying that in my oppinion SENNA might be one of the best documentaries ever made. Also, that a contributing factor to why I might think this way is probably because I am a big fan of Formula 1 and I have been wanting to see this documentary since it first premiered in 2010. Now finally got my chance at Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF).
On Sunday 23rd, the closing day of HIFF, I went to see SENNA. A documentary about the extraordinary life and extremely tragic death of one of the worlds all-time best racing-drivers, Brazilian Ayrton Senna.
The film follows Senna from the very beginning of his career as a go-cart driver all the way to the the very top as the world champion in Formula 1. It shows a very humble yet extremely competitive side of Senna, which makes him very likable and at the end of the documentary it feels almost as if you knew him personally.
As I entered the movie theatre at Dole, it was clear this was a very niched audience, unlike many of the other films I have seen during the film festival. A large part of the audience were middle aged males with a clear interest in motor sports.
Since I also follow Formula one, even though I might look nothing like the stereotypical racing interested person, I enjoyed being able to get the “insider jokes”. There was for example a scene when a young Rubens Barrichello (another great Brazilian F1 driver) was interacting with Senna, as he firls joined the F1 world tour. At this point a laughter of recognition and amusement of seeing Barrichello the way he used to look “back in the day”, spread in the crowd. Now, if you have no interest in F1 and have never seen Barrichello before, you probably would not find this very amusing at all and you would probably be sitting there wondering what you missed as others around you are laughing.
Senna’s way to the top was a great success story. He believed in himself and would not stop for anything or anyone to get to the top. This becomes rather apparent in the very interesting relationship Senna had with Alain Prost, the current world champion at the time Senna enters the Formula 1 racing scene.
Senna came into the game eager to show everyone how good of a driver he was and to win as many races as possible, which he also did.This of course made Prost feel intimidated and there are many interviews with the two of them where the tension and competitiveness is very obvious and tangible.
The documentary focus a lot on the safety, or lack thereof, in the Formula 1 racing at that time. Long film clips are shown from when Senna and all of the other drivers were gathered in an office along with the head of FIA, Fédération Internationale de L’Automobile (International Automobile Federation), discussing what needed to be done to make the race track better and safer. Senna was very engaged in the discussions and brought up many good points on how to eliminate or lessen the risk of serious accidents.
The film of course also highlights the tragic crash taking place at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994 where Senna unfortunately passed away. His car accidentally spun off the track, hit the concrete wall, and after the car had came to a complete stop, images show a motionless Senna still sitting in the cockpit with his helmet slightly tilting to the side.
The sad event is projected very well in the documentary as it brings a lot of light to the great impact Senna had on many peoples’ lives, especially in his home country Brazil.
After the crash Sidney Watkins, head of the Formula 1 medical team stated:
“He looked serene. I raised his eyelids and it was clear from his pupils that he had a massive brain injury. We lifted him from the cockpit and laid him on the ground. As we did, he sighed and, although I am not religious, I felt his spirit depart at that moment.”
Click HERE for trailer