“ There’s something that really stayed with me: the palpable spell that Diego Maradona is still capable to ignite in the eyes of the people who’ve met him thirty years ago.”
On 5th July 1984, Diego Maradona arrived in Naples for a world-record fee and for seven years all hell broke loose. Crafted from over 500 hours of never-before-seen footage, Diego Maradona presents an astonishing portrait of the icon. We spoke with Archive Producer Fiammetta Luino about her role in the making of the film.
How did your career in the industry begin?
Pretty much with this one film! Previous to that I had worked in the art world and my only foray into documentary filmmaking had been a short film on the Italian photographer Carla Cerati that I had produced and directed myself; a labour of love, made independently and outside the industry. Diego Maradona marked my first, real step in the industry.
And in a few words, could you describe your role as Archive Producer?
My area of focus was Italy, where I had to locate all the existing footage, get access to it and, eventually, clear it for the release of the film. That is pretty much in line with the usual work of an Archive Producer. But because of the language (I was the only one who fluently spoke Italian on the crew) and thanks to Asif’s unique way of working, the role on this film ended up being much wider than that. The research for archive immediately blended with the wider research of the story in Italy and with finding the Italian contributors, getting them on board and assisting Asif during all the interviews he conducted in Italy. So the role became all-encompassing in a way, and this ultimately paid off in regard to finding the archive too, because the more you know the story, the more you get to know the people who were there, the more likely you are to find new clues and sources that will lead to unseen archive.
How did Diego Maradona come to you? How early did you get involved?
I had heard that On the Corner was looking for someone to translate some clips from Italian; that was during the winter of 2015–16, when the team was cutting the teaser to raise the money for the film. I had seen Senna and Amy so I immediately made myself available and started to translate footage for them. Then, once the production started, I did a work experience with them. On the back of that, they asked me to stay a bit longer as a Researcher, then eventually to take up the role of Archive Producer for Italy and so on. In the end, I worked on this film from beginning to end, for two and a half years.
And what was the process like? How did you gather over 500 hours of previously unseen footage?
A first, important batch of footage had already been accessed by the two Producers of the film, James Gay-Rees and Paul Martin: footage shot by Maradona’s personal cameramen, Juan Carlos Laburu and Luigi Martucci. It included some great private footage and a lot of unique football footage, mostly from the years in Naples, shot directly onto the pitch, with a special focus on Diego. But, as Asif’s documentaries truly emerge from a deep, forensic observation of every piece of footage left behind by the character, together with my colleague Lina Caicedo, who worked on the Argentinian side of the story, we had to source a lot more footage, to cover for the entire life of Diego Maradona, in all its facets. And, indeed, three-quarters of the film ended up being sourced from a myriads of places other than that initial batch of footage.
The process is one of intense research. You try to absorb clues from anywhere you can find them: newspapers of the time, books, the interviews we were doing, research phone calls, etc. It becomes a bit like an investigative job. And, because the film continued to evolve in the edit, there was a constant dialogue with Asif and Chris King, the editor, as Lina Caicedo and I had to keep pace and respond to the shifting needs of the cut.
The tap wire recordings are also really amazing. How did you get access to that?
At the time when the tap wire recordings were made, Maradona had already lost his wide approval and the press was ready to jump on anything that could amplify the fall of his myth. The recordings were thus leaked to the press and entire lines were quoted in papers. So, the material per se had been in the public sphere for a while. But, of course, we needed the audio, as printed lines of text are no good for a film. It took several months and a lot of perseverance, but, luckily for us, the tapes had miraculously survived in some dusty corner of a remote archive facility.
Did the archive sector in Italy differ significantly from in the UK?
Generally speaking, I’d say that it is much harder to navigate, because the archive sector is less widely established in Italy. Sometimes the archive exists, but it is hard to access, because of a lack of personnel, or protocol or a searchable catalogue. At other times, it is like a mirage at the end of a long and maddening bureaucratic process. On this project, we were lucky because we had time, time we could spend to work all of this out. If you are in for the long haul, there is always a way, but you need a lot of patience and perseverance.
And you spoke a little about your role as translator, could you elaborate on this?
Because I was the only Italian on the crew, I became the point of reference for all-things-Italian; from serving as Asif’s ears and mouth when we’d go to Italy, to assisting with the dialogue editing later on during post-production. But besides plain translation, the most important thing was to be able to account for the cultural nuances that laid behind the archive or the conversations we were having with contributors. Naples is a wonderful place, with a unique and very strong culture. It was important for Asif and Chris to be able to access and understand the cultural context, beyond what was being said on a literal level. Similarly, Diego Maradona has always been an incredibly smart communicator, able to surf over the twists and turns of a language to exploit its cultural connotations at his advantage — that also was an important aspect of his character that we did not want to get lost in translation.
What is one of the most memorable moments of working on the film?
There’s something that really stayed with me: the palpable spell that Diego Maradona is still capable to ignite in the eyes of the people who’ve met him thirty years ago. We’ve met nearly everyone who was around him at the time in Naples and everyone seemed to still be reeling from the time spent at his side. You can think whatever you want about Diego Maradona, but one thing seems undisputed: he was a man — a young man actually — of real charisma and overwhelming energy. And you can still perceive that today, in the eyes of those who met him then.
Is there anything you tried to get access to that you were not able to?
Yes, in Italy, there were some almost Biblical mishaps we had to reckon with: an archive was destroyed by a fire, another by a flood, a third one was mysteriously stolen one night and a fourth one was made inaccessible when the file with the catalogue of thousands of tapes was deleted by mistake!
Is there a piece of archive footage that you are especially proud of unearthing?
That close-up on Diego’s face at the Christmas Party, towards the end of the film. I love that shot. That is the dream of any Archive Producer: to find an image caught fortuitously, by someone who may have never thought of cinema, and which — under the genius hands of Asif and Chris — finds a perfection of meaning and form, as though meant for it all along. It was incredibly hard to negotiate access to that footage and it took months to even be able to view it, but I remember the first time I caught a glimpse of that very scene and thought, that’s going to be in the film. So now, every time I see that image on the big screen, I’m reminded of that very first time I encountered it (and of all the struggle we went through to get it!).
DIEGO MARADONA is out now on DVD, Blu-Ray & Digital!