Like many sports fanatics, director Jean-Christophe Rosé counts athletes among the heroes of his youth. The difference between Rosé and his soccer-loving brethren, however, is that he gets the enviable task of pouring over often unseen images of his idols; Rosé has built a reputation for constructing docs with a heavy reliance on archival footage. ‘I spend months of production with people whom I never knew in flesh and bone,’ he says.
In the case of Rosé’s most recent doc, his subject’s history reads like a Hollywood script, brimming with money, drugs and politics. A coproduction with Marseille-based 13 Production and ARTE France, Maradona, The Golden Kid uses archives of Argentinean soccer superstar Diego Maradona. The 90-minute doc recently aired on ARTE in the lead-up to the World Cup, and weaves footage from sports programs, advertising and TV shows, plus a wealth of never-before-released images, including materials shot over 10 years by Maradona’s personal cameraman.
Rosé, who has made about 30 docs over his career, is accustomed to screening a mass amount of footage to find illuminating moments. In Gods of Brazil, his 2002 film on Brazilian soccer gurus Pelé and Garrincha, Rosé viewed roughly 100 hours of archival footage. ‘As is often in these cases,’ says Rosé, ‘half of it was generally not of interest, 30 hours were fairly interesting, and 20 hours were enthralling.’
Gods is entirely based on archives, as is Maradona, which uses some 3/4′ video sources. ‘Not only did the archives age poorly, but the colors are often very ugly,’ says Rosé. ‘When I make a film from archives of this period, I always ask myself if the subject of the film is strong enough to overcome this handicap.’ With Maradona, there was no doubt. While Rosé says new high-quality calibration machines can greatly improve the quality of the images, they’re costly. He adds that the machines ‘will never make poor video images something as beautiful as a 35mm image with true depth of field.’ But when it comes to providing depth into the players on the soccer field, Rosé’s got the right moves.