photo manipulations by nacrowe
years ago i found myself in RIO DE JANEIRO in a mall (i was searching for an ATM) and noticed that FUTBOL was not the most represented sport in terms of products and merchandise on display, oddly it was all FORMULA 1. jackets and shirts with an iconic MARLBORO CIGARETTES color scheme and yellow performance racing helmets with blue and green stripes (the BRASILIAN flag colors). all this for some guy named AYRTON SENNA i learned.
never heard of him.
the documentary SENNA (STUDIOCANAL, 2010) dives deep into the legend and lasting cultural impact of AYRTON SENNA on both the world of FORMULA 1 as well as his native country of BRASIL.
back then the world of racing was very much a closed community dominated by EUROPEANS (including his FRENCH rival ALAIN PROST) with many unwritten but deeply ingrained "gentleman" rules of proper demeanor and accepted techniques and maneuvers on the racetrack. there was also a system in place to prove your worth up the ranks. SENNA basically destroyed all of this.
first off he was a veteran of the KART RACING circuit, a "lesser" form of racing with smaller financial barriers of entry. his move up the ranks and ability to fight his way into FORMULA 1 was a testament to his preternatural driving skills. his time in KARTING also made him familiar with various aggressive, highly risky maneuvers that would prove controversial in FORMULA 1 as they were done at much increased velocities. if there is one thing i know about BRASILIAN culture it is that it is not enough for the just to win, what they truly desire is to win beautifully. such is the case in futbol and thanks to SENNA such was the case with these risky maneuvers.
to the BRASILIAN mindset, he was out there dancing on the circuit, moving like none before in an inimitable form of SAMBA. and he was winning, having claimed the 1988, 1990 and 1991 FORMULA 1 titles before his death in 1994.
Having driven for MCLAREN team for most of his career, he switched to WILLIAMS as they had a new onboard computer that could account for the tires in hard turns, apparently providing a competitive advantage. this new technology was used by competitors and so SENNA was attempting to keep up with technology. unfortunately they were not reliable and given his relative inexperience with the system before the season, he overcompensated a turn that resulted in a crash that ended his life.
i can attest personally that the now mythic figure of SENNA is point of personal pride for BRASILIANS, the very embodiment of a local self-made kid done good in a world dominated for centuries by EUROPEANS. there is a definite COLONIALIST subtext to this pride, which is different than other heroes like PELE who participated in team sports.
my assumption is that SENNA did it alone. he won big and he did it beautifully.
SENNA is an interesting, well-constructed documentary about a public sports figure little known stateside. well worth checking out.