Director’s Chair Introduction: Asif Kapadia

by Tony Cogan · January 2, 2017 · Director's Chair · 2 Comments

Deadline: 28th January 2017

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Hello everyone and welcome to the new year of Director’s Chair. Last year, the focus went to directors who have mostly done narrative films, this month however, I wanted to expand the style of films being covered and look at a director best known for making documentaries and I can think of no director better to choose for this than Asif Kapadia.

Now Kapadia did get his start in narrative films, directing a few short films before making his acclaimed first film The Warrior in 2001, the acclaim of which led to Kapadia accomplishing the first of his two milestones at the BAFTAs as The Warrior is the only film to win the Best British Film award to not be filmed in English, the dialogue of the film being in Hindi. After a brief stint in America making the horror film The Return and making the film Far North, Kapadia hit his stride with his documentaries. His first documentary, Senna, focused on the life of Formula 1 racing driver Ayrton Senna, mainly focusing on his rivalry with fellow driver Alain Prost, his struggles with the politics of Formula 1 and his death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, his death being the last in Formula 1 due to the severe increase in safety standards following that race which also saw the death of Roland Ratzenberger and a crash that severely injured Rubens Barrichello. What made Senna noteworthy was its focus on videos of Senna, any interviews conducted playing out in voice overs only, making use of extensive home video footage provided by Senna’s family. When it was released, Senna was the subject of high critical acclaim, with Kapadia achieving his second BAFTA milestone, Senna being the only documentary to win the BAFTA for Best Editing (with it being a major point of contention when Senna wasn’t nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary), along with it being one of the most financially successful documentaries in the UK, being the highest grossing British documentary and the 2nd highest grossing documentary released in the UK (after Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11) until the records were broken by Kapadia’s next film, Amy. Focusing on the life of singer Amy Winehouse and her struggles with fame, addiction, bulimia, self harm, abusive relationships and the negative media attention she received, using the same style as Senna, making extensive use of previously unreleased video footage of Winehouse. Amy received even higher critical acclaim than Senna, winning numerous awards, including the Oscar for Best Documentary. Kapadia has since followed on his documentary success by producing a documentary on the rise of Oasis and is currently in the process of making a documentary on footballer Diego Maradona (in the meantime directed the narrative film Ali and Nino, and an advert for Burberry with Domhnall Gleason, Lily James, Sienna Miller and Dominic West, which could be a film on it’s own).

As usual, send any pieces on the films of Asif Kapadia to and below is a quick reminder of his films.

  • The Warrior
  • The Return
  • Far North
  • Senna
  • Amy
  • Ali and Nino

I look forward to reading the pieces you send to me on the films of Asif Kapadia and I hope you enjoy watching his films.