“Archive research can become really obsessive. At some point you have to say ‘stop, this is enough, we don’t need anymore. Let’s work with what we have.’”
Constructed from over 500 hours of never-before-seen footage, Diego Maradona presents an astounding accomplishment in archival research. We spoke with Archive Producer Lina Caicedo about the making of the film.
In a few words, could you describe your role as Archive Producer?
I was responsible for handling all of the Spanish language and Latin American archive, which included: researching, pre-selecting and organising the audio-visual material, as well as negotiating deals and clearing the copyright of the archive used.
How did your career in the industry begin?
I had been working in the financial industry for about five years after I left university. It was one of those jobs that I took because I had no idea what I wanted to do and just needed work. But I hated it! It was like wearing a mask every single day. About four years into the job, I knew that I had to get out. But the fear of not knowing where to go and what it was that I wanted to do exactly was quite daunting.
In my free-time I started taking up extra-curricular activities to engage with my creativity, one of which was volunteering at a local film festival, where I was given the opportunity to help curate small film events. I really enjoyed it and connected with some interesting people, including a very motivating film-maker (now a very good friend), who inspired me to make my first short film. Very soon after, I decided to leave my job and start from scratch in film by becoming a runner at a TV production company. From that moment on, everything changed.
How did DIEGO MARADONA come to you? How early did you get involved?
I had been working as a researcher at a television production company for about two years. I had been lucky enough to work with an incredible archive producer called Miriam Walsh, who not only has a wealth of experience under her belt, but also taught me to see archive in a different way. It was through working with Miriam that I started becoming more curious about the ways in which archive could be used in documentary, which later led me to want to work with film-makers that were really pushing the boundaries of how they used archive in their films.
I have always been a fan of Asif Kapadia’s work and one day I came across a Film4 interview where he discussed the filmmaking process on Amy — he spoke about the forensic research that had been carried out, the layers to the story and the importance of the archive. I think perhaps what caught my attention the most, was the fact that he didn’t know much about his protagonist before making his film, he didn’t work with scripts either, rather he discovered the story and who they were through the process. This felt like a really unique way of working and I wanted to explore a different way of film-making, so I sent my CV to Asif’s company and about 6 months later, received an email saying that he was making a film about Diego Maradona and whether I wanted to come in for an interview. When I started on the production, On The Corner had only just signed a contract with Diego, so I came in at the very early stages. Trump hadn’t yet been elected. That is how long we’ve been working on this film. It feels like a lifetime.
How did you gather over 500 hours of previously unseen footage? What was the process like?
When Fiammetta and I started on the project, On The Corner had recently secured access to the archive footage of two cameramen who had closely followed Diego’s football career between 1981 and 1991. So, there was already a good amount of footage for us to get our teeth into — mostly football footage, shot at pitch level, as well as some home family footage. However, the material was really disorganised, there were duplicates of everything or different versions of the same thing. Furthermore, nothing had been dated or logged, so, we had to go back to basics — namely, create a very tight timeline, organise the footage and give it context. Once we were able to establish what there was , we were able to decipher what was missing and just how much more archive was required to tell our story. This is the moment that the archive research really begins, which involved reaching out to various broadcasters in the UK, France, Spain, Latin-America and Italy, as well as private collectors, journalists, friends of Diego, as well as Diego’s family. We cast the net wide. Every single person that we spoke to or interviewed, we would ask them about archive. Any person that had written about Diego, met Diego, interviewed Diego, we would ask them about archive. Every documentary that we watched with good archive material, we would trace the archive sources. Every article we read with a key piece of information we would try to track some related archive — was it filmed? Is there a photo? It was like detective work, trying to piece together a very big puzzle. Once the material started to come in, it would be logged and translated, so that Asif and Chris King (Editor) could watch it.
How did the archive sector Argentina differ from the UK?
It took me a while to get used to the fact that the archive sector in Latin-America is not as developed or as well funded as it is in the US and the UK. This made the archive research and clearing process extremely slow and often frustrated by bureaucratic procedures typical of Latin America. There isn’t a whole structure of people exclusively dedicated to archive, who can give you clear answers with solid results. Everything is quite elusive and you sort of have to find your own way.
Due to the lack of funds, you would often find archives with material that hadn’t been stored properly, in damp rooms, moulding, or simply thrown away because they were not deemed important enough. This has bred what are known as “private collectors” in Argentina, that is people that either work or have worked at a television station and take tapes home that are being discarded. They may also be cinephiles that are aware that TV stations and production companies are throwing away material, so they go to the skips and take those tapes home. Over the years, these individuals have created their own personal archives and charge a fee for anyone that wants to access this material. Often, there would be an event or an interview with Diego that I would have read about in an article, that I knew had been filmed by a local broadcaster, but the broadcaster wouldn’t have it and so I would need to track it down via a private collector.
You also had a role as translator, could you talk a bit about this? How did it impact the editing process?
Having to translate 5 hour conversations between Asif and the interviewees was quite intense. Not being a professional translator, I really felt the pressure. Furthermore, it was quite exhausting for both parties, having to wait for every answer, every nuance to be translated. In the end, we managed to find a good solution, by adding an additional translator — that way, I would ask Asif’s questions to the interviewee and there would be another translator in another room, translating the interviewee’s answer simultaneously in Asif’s ear. This not only made the conversation between Asif and the interviewee feel much more organic and fluid, but it also meant that we gained more time.
The edit also required a lot of patience. Not only did every single archive clip and interview carried out by Asif need to be translated, but once the editing process began, poor Chris, who does not speak Spanish or Italian, had to edit it all, which was really tricky. One thing is reading the subtitles and the other thing is hearing what is actually being said. What was read in the subtitle, wasn’t necessarily the order in which the words were spoken. So, Chris would often be cutting together sentences that didn’t make sense. Sometimes it was also a question of trying to give sense to many of Diego’s Diego-isms, which was usually a mixture of Argentinian slang mixed up with some Argentinian cultural reference that Diego had mashed up together. Which meant that Fiammetta and I had to spend a lot of time in the edit, either trying to help Chris fix sentences, so that they would make sense grammatically, or make sure that the tone or context was correct. I really give Chris King huge props!
What is one of the most memorable moments of working on the film?
There were so many intense, stressful, ridiculous, hilarious, amazing, beautiful moments working on this film. I really wish that I had kept some sort of diary. And there were so many incredible people that I met along the way who helped us immensely on this film. A funny, quite surreal moment that sticks in my mind, is when Asif and I ended up on a little adventure in the slums of Buenos Aires to collect some archive. It was one of those moments that began unravelling itself slowly, where for a while we were quite oblivious of where we were going and then it clicked and then there was panic. But in the end it was totally fine, because we had an amazing taxi driver called Roxanne, who was pretty streetwise. We also met the archive collector and his family, who were so kind and sweet. We got the archive that we needed as well, which nobody else had! We felt quite ridiculous afterwards, like two lost Westerners.
Is there anything you tried to find/get access to that you were not able to?
There is always new archive that you hear about and that you want access to. For example, towards the end of the film-making process, we were made aware that Carlos Bilardo (Argentina’s national coach during the 86 WC) — had filmed all of the team’s training sessions. This was material that had never been seen before, so we wanted to see it at least. But when we met Bilardo, he wasn’t very well in health, so it was very difficult to build a strong enough relationship with him to get that access. Saying that, archive research can become really obsessive. At some point you have to say “stop, this is enough, we don’t need anymore. Let’s work with what we have.” And what we had gathered already was plenty.
All in all, I would argue that we got pretty much everything that we wanted for the time period that we were covering. Plus, new material that had never been seen before. Daniel Arcucci, who is Diego’s biographer and also an archive collector himself, said to me “when you guys started working on this project, I told you that everything on Diego Maradona had already been found. That there was no new material out there of him. But you guys proved me wrong”.
Is there a piece of archive footage that you are especially proud of unearthing?
There is a shot before the World Cup Final in 1986 where Diego’s geeing up the team. There is also the footage of Diego and his team-mates singing on the plane after winning the world cup in 1986, followed by a shot of Diego, walking through the airport, carrying the world cup in his hands, bombarded by the press, where he has a really frightened look in his eyes. This material was unearthed at one of the oldest broadcasters in Argentina, who usually never give access to production companies to look through their archive. But I was able to form some good relationships and gain their trust. However, once we were ready to picture lock, there was a really frightening moment, when we needed to receive the master (high resolution) clips, and were told that this wouldn’t be possible because all the archivists had gone on strike and the issue wouldn’t be resolved until the following year. I think I didn’t sleep for a week, trying to turn this around.
DIEGO MARADONA is out now on DVD, Blu-Ray & Digital!