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      08-12-2011, 06:46 PM   #1
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F1 Senna Movie- You dont know about racing, if you dont know this man.

Securing mainstream, in-theater U.S. distribution for a documentary film is often a challenge and even more difficult, if not nigh on impossible, when the subject matter is a sport with a relatively low domestic profile. Yet the much-anticipated Senna opens in Los Angeles and New York today, Aug. 12, and 17 additional U.S. cities will play host in the following weeks to the award-winning look at the Brazilian Formula One world champion who died in the San Marino Grand Prix in Italy on May 1, 1994.

Positive word-of-mouth buzz gave this remarkable film enough momentum that Senna--released already in other countries, most of which rank F1 as a spectator sport of choice--has become successful on both commercial and artistic merit. Its appeal as a cinematic experience spreads beyond racing enthusiasts, and it became the best-performing documentary in U.K. history upon its June release.

Early signs indicate that it will fare well in this country, too. The film won two prestigious audience awards--for World Cinema Documentary at January's Sundance Festival and for International Feature at the L.A. Film Festival in June. Reports from early screenings in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas--where F1 is scheduled to return to the United States in 2012--said that audience members who entered theaters knowing little to nothing about F1 and what they were going to witness were visibly emotional, even shaken, by the time the credits rolled.

Autoweek readers, of course, will know how the story ends, but "you don't have to be an F1 aficionado to make this film work for you," says British screenwriter and executive producer Manish Pandey. "We haven't made it so complicated that you need to know the rules in and out. We have reduced it to a series of parables, if you like, and I think the American audiences bring with them passion and energy."

One thing the movie has going for it in the United States that it doesn't have in the United Kingdom, for instance, is the Latin community, Pandey says. "And also," he notes, "Senna's relative anonymity in the States. It almost has a Sixth Sense element to it. Go and see the film, and don't give away the ending [to those who don't know]!"

Many people played a role in getting Senna to the screen, but Pandey was the driving force. If you spend a few minutes in his company, you can understand how the enthusiastic 44-year-old helped to convince both F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and the Senna family to share his vision.

Pandey is actually a doctor specializing in orthopedics, but F1 has been his great passion since his early teens. He became a Senna fan when the Brazilian drove for Lotus early in his career, at a time when most Brits supported Nigel Mansell.

"Suddenly, I had a proper hero," he recalls. "I loved everything about him. I learned about how determined he was, how passionate he was, how ruthless he was. I found every one of those characteristics more attractive, not less.

"For me, it was a perfect storm. You've got this great guy, you admire him so much, and he's the bęte noire of everyone you don't like. And the more ignorant they are, the more you feel justified in liking this guy."

After practicing medicine full-time for a few years, Pandey relaxed his schedule to follow a new part-time career as a screenwriter. Although none of his fictional scripts was produced prior to Senna, he established a relationship with London-based Working Title, the production company behind Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones's Diary, Billy Elliot and Captain Corelli's Mandolin, as well as many Coen brothers films.

Senna was kick-started by producer James Gay-Rees, who, ironically, showed little interest in racing when his father was an account manager for Lotus title sponsor John Player Special at the same time Senna drove for the team. However, by 2004, Gay-Rees, now 44, was in the movie business and pitching ideas to Working Title. Newspaper articles about the 10th anniversary of Senna's death caught his eye, and he floated the idea of a documentary about the three-time world champion. Enter Pandey.

"My wife was head of development at Working Title at the time, and she'd made a film with James many years earlier," Pandey says. "She said, 'If you want to make a film about Senna, you should talk to my husband, because he really knows about him.'

"So I met James in October 2004. I said, you can't just make a film about the death of Ayrton Senna. It misses the point of him. If you really knew what this guy was in life, you'd really see it. If you want to do something, do his life and death.

"I even had in my mind what the three acts would be--his ascent to the world championship, his struggle which only begins when he becomes world champion, and then his death, which is the whole third act. James said, 'Fantastic. Can you write something?'"

A month later, Pandey delivered a 10-page treatment. However, it would take six years for the finished film to make the screen, and there were many hurdles. Earning the support of the Senna family--who are intensely protective of Ayrton's image and legacy--was an absolute must for the project to have even a hope of becoming reality.

Pandey and Gay-Rees in June 2005 had a positive meeting in London with Celso Lemos, the Senna Foundation's commercial boss, but the person who mattered was Ayrton's sister Viviane. The two filmmakers finally met with her in March 2006 in the family's hometown of Săo Paulo, where Pandey made a 40-minute presentation.

"At the end of it, she got up," he says. "I'd known her 41 minutes by then, and she just said to me, 'You really knew my brother.' I had this incredible shiver down my spine when she said that. The closest I'd been to him was four feet away at Silverstone once. She just felt I'd got the essence of the man."

There was one more bridge to cross. Without permission from Ecclestone to use official F1 race footage, there would be no film. The team met him in May 2006.

"We had a 17-minute meeting," Pandey recalls. "He didn't sit down, but he was very animated and talked a lot. At the end, he said, 'We'll see what we can do.' We knew we had the deal then."

Still, a couple of years passed before contracts were finalized. As time dragged on, original director Kevin MacDonald--who made the acclaimed mountaineering documentary Touching the Void--dropped out. In February 2007, Pandey and Gay-Rees found a worthy replacement in Asif Kapadia, already the winner of a British Academy Award for a dramatic film. Kapadia, now 39, brought a new artistic dimension to the project, deciding that the film could be made only with original footage and without talking heads or a narrator. Instead, Senna would tell the story himself, backed by sound bites from unseen interviewees. In filmmaking terms, it was a bold step.

"It's super rare," Pandey acknowledges. "Normally, if people have all archive [footage], they have a narrator, and we didn't even do that. We made it so hard for ourselves."

Viviane Senna, team owner Frank Williams, former F1 doctor Sid Watkins, Senna archrival Alain Prost and McLaren F1 boss Ron Dennis recorded interviews. Insight from journalists, including former ESPN F1 commentator John Bisignano, help keep the story flowing. The producers received an unexpected bonus when leading Brazilian soundtrack composer Antonio Pinto contacted them and volunteered to provide the music.

Meanwhile, footage was sourced from around the world, including the family. The key was access to Ecclestone's vaults, where the team found amazing unseen video of FIA driver briefings and a preoccupied Senna in the Williams team's garage during his final weekend of racing. The first cut of the film came in at five hours, and chopping it down to a more manageable 104 minutes was a painful process. The Senna family saw the final version in a rented theater in Cannes, just before the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix.

"Viviane said, 'Manish, you guys did it,'" Pandey says. "'You captured the genius and the humanity.' And she shrugged. I just can't tell you how we felt. It was an incredible sigh of relief in that moment, the tension of the world falling off our shoulders."

The film first played late last year in Japan and Brazil, two Senna-friendly markets that also happened to host conveniently timed Grands Prix. Since then, it has rolled out around the world, always with a warm reception. Pandey makes the point that U.S. race fans are a dedicated bunch, used to watching live F1 action at odd hours. Sound familiar? These are people who would be willing to make an effort to get to the theater to see the film on a big screen.

"We've had people who have driven a couple of hundred miles," Pandey says. "Without doubt, Americans have responded to it already, but box office is so hard to predict."

True, but providing some anecdotal evidence of the film's potential in this country, more than 5,000 voters on the IMDB.com Web site rate it an 8.8 out of 10.0. The sample might be small, but that's the best-ever score for a documentary--and incredibly, that's bettered by only seven movies in history, including The Godfather I and II, Pulp Fiction and Schindler's List.

"The people who score the film most highly are American women," Pandey points out. "The Americans bring something to it which we never could, in that they don't know who he was. So they watch it as a movie; they have no baggage at all.

"It's about a young man, he's hardworking, he struggles all his life, he achieved super heights, he's immensely wealthy, he's God-fearing--and we kill him! That's not the Hollywood paradigm at any level."

The upcoming DVD version includes an extra 50 minutes of talking heads, which can be viewed either separately or inserted at intervals into the regular cut. But make no mistake: This is a film that begs to be seen on the big screen. Don't miss your chance.

U.S. Release Dates (Check local listings for updates):

Aug. 12: Los Angeles (Landmark); New York (Landmark Sunshine Cinema)

Aug. 19: Austin, Texas (Violet Crown Cinema); Berkeley, Calif. (Landmark Shattuck Cinemas); Cambridge, Mass. (Landmark Kendall Square Cinema); Chicago (Landmark Century Centre Cinema); Dallas (Angelika Dallas Film Center); Detroit (Landmark Main Art Theatre); Miami (AMC Sunset Place 24); Nashville (Belcourt Theatre); Philadelphia (Landmark Ritz at the Bourse); San Francisco (Landmark Embarcadero Center Cinema); Washington, D.C. (Landmark E Street Cinema)

Aug. 26: Atlanta (Landmark Midtown Art Cinema); Denver (Landmark Chez Artiste); Minneapolis (Landmark Lagoon Cinema); Palm Springs, Calif. (Cinemas Palme d'Or); Palo Alto, Calif. (TBD); Portland (Regal Fox Tower Stadium); San Diego (Landmark Ken Cinema); Seattle (Landmark Varsity Theatre)

Sept. 2: Charlotte, N.C. (Park Terrace); Indianapolis (Regal Downtown West Cinema); Knoxville, Tenn. (Landmark Keystone Art Cinema); St. Louis (Landmark Tivoli Theatre)

Sept. 23: Santa Fe, N.M. (UA DeVargas Mall)
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      08-12-2011, 06:51 PM   #2
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What relation does this fantastic film have with BMW or the E9X Series?
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      08-12-2011, 07:43 PM   #3
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Yea, I'm not reading that.....
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      08-12-2011, 07:43 PM   #4
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What relation does this fantastic film have with BMW or the E9X Series?
BECAUSE RACECAR!!
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      08-12-2011, 07:58 PM   #5
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The documentary really is amazing. Absolutely worth the watch if you are fascinated or intrigued by racing or speed in any way, and the mans rise and fall is incredibly entertaining.
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      08-12-2011, 08:07 PM   #6
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Ayrton Senna was an amazing driver! It was a tragedy that he had to die due to his team Engeneer carelessness! It could have all been prevented if they used the right material in his steering column extension....

R.I.P Senna.....greatest F1 driver that ever set foot in a Formula car. Period.
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      08-12-2011, 08:34 PM   #7
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^ it was a last minute pit lane weld job that caused the crack, i believe senna insisted on shortening the steering wheel, or lengthening it thus the last minute weld job.
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      08-12-2011, 08:46 PM   #8
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Yea, I'm not reading that.....
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      08-12-2011, 10:26 PM   #9
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If you buy a BMW for the virtues of its heritage and spirit of motoring, the connection is obvious, otherwise, if you have the car for status and no passion for the sport of motoring, then this movie is not for you.
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      08-12-2011, 10:42 PM   #10
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OP, can you please give us the Sparknotes version of your essay?
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      08-12-2011, 11:14 PM   #11
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The notes are cut n paste from Autoweek, sorry charlie...
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      08-12-2011, 11:18 PM   #12
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watched the movie as well as the live broadcast of the 1994 san marino GP...great movie and a tragic day.
But OP...wrong section btw....

two threads are talking about his movie already...

http://www.e90post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=571247

http://www.e90post.com/forums/showth...ighlight=Senna

whoever is interested in this movie should also read an article in "F1 Racing" a few months ago. Talked about how did the directors/producers made the movie happen with full support from the Senna family and Bernie Ecclestone. Bernie even allowed the producers to use official FIA/FOM archive footages.
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      08-13-2011, 02:56 AM   #13
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^ it was a last minute pit lane weld job that caused the crack, i believe senna insisted on shortening the steering wheel, or lengthening it thus the last minute weld job.
It was an extension. They did it after qualifying for the race day. Ayrton complained about the steering wheel being too far away. So they Used shitty material and it snapped in the turn....the rest is tragic history....I still have the original article from the newspapers in when I was visiting Europe.\
They even redesighned Tamburello turn after the whole tragic event.
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Last edited by dd1981; 08-13-2011 at 03:23 AM.
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      08-13-2011, 05:09 AM   #14
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Quote:
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It was an extension. They did it after qualifying for the race day. Ayrton complained about the steering wheel being too far away. So they Used shitty material and it snapped in the turn....the rest is tragic history....I still have the original article from the newspapers in when I was visiting Europe.\
They even redesighned Tamburello turn after the whole tragic event.
cool, is the article in english? if so can u please scan it and post?
i was too young to remember anything when it all happened
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      09-07-2011, 03:58 PM   #15
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Saturday night I went to a special screening in Millerton NY that was part of the Lime Rock Historic Festival. The film was introduced by Skip Barber and after the film Skip Barber, Bob Sharp, Davy Jones and Sam Posey led a discussion forum. Some of these guys knew Ayrton Senna and it was a very interesting discussion.

The film was very well done and is still playing at the Movie House in Millerton.

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      09-07-2011, 04:04 PM   #16
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      09-07-2011, 08:30 PM   #17
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Two pieces of info about this film:

1--everyone must watch it

2--there is a 1:45 cut and 2:45 cut. Get the full version if you think youll be interested.
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