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Ayrton – Childhood in the Heart of Brazil



Directed by Vicentini Gomez | Reviewed by Sabarno

There’s not a single person who has loved F1 racing, and has followed scores day after day who has not heard of the name of Ayrton Senna. It could even be said that many people know Brazil through two or three things in most of the world: football, Amazon and Senna. That genius Brazilian boy did things which have eclipsed the careers of the best even till date. No doubt he is called the Greatest F1 Driver in the history of the sport. It is indeed my proud privilege to be reviewing a documentary made on the life of Senna titled “Ayrton – Childhood in the Heart of Brazil”. 

As is understood from the title, the film deals with how Brazil figured prominently in the making of Ayrton Senna into what he was as we the world knew him. Many have said that Ayrton could be Ayrton as he was born into Brazil. The reasoning behind this is what the film tries to explore. This film actually captures a lesser known period in the life of the genius motorist, between the ages of 7 and 17, when he spent his summer vacations in his father’s farm in the municipality of Taipas. As we see through the director’s eyes, it is this place which made Ayrton as we know him today. 

The film shows us the journey of Ayrton with respect to this particular place through his childhood and adolescence and ends with the words of his father, Mr Milton da Silva. The way the director has captured the journey of Senna is something which is very unique, and I will be expounding on this soon. The documentary uses interviews and recorded material of people who used to work in Mr Milton’s farm and had seen “Becão” (as Senna was endearingly called) grow up with them in the farm. They and their children had interacted with Senna very intimately and therefore, it was quite pleasing to hear their personal accounts with Ayrton. This I consider to be an invaluable task since most biographies will write two pages about this part of Ayrton’s life, erasing these many personal memories that so many people shared in the best years of their lives with him. But, perhaps, this is the most important part of a biography: what made a person who he was as a human being. And the director has splendidly done that.

Gomez has also done something which viewers may notice but not exactly be able to pinpoint. Through the many folk songs and dance and very unique shots, Gomez has tried to pass on a message which people need to understand and realise. To understand this, first one must know a bit about the six Brazilian biomes, one of which is the Cerrado (a.k.a the Brazilian savannah). The Cerrado vegetation contains shades of green, yellow, and brownish tones which seems slightly discoloured due to the sunlight. The director, quite ingeniously, has tried to blend the arid soil with the mountains and waterfalls to create this very contrasting but sublime image of the State of Tocantins which, I have been told, many Brazilians themselves are unaware of. What this kind of a cinematic treatment has also done is that it created scenes which seem like paintings of Dali when looked at. 

We also see an actor playing the character of Ayrton, speaking his convictions and confusions during the course of the film. But with this, we also see a colour coding – blue shirt and pale colours, grey shirt and monochrome – which is absolutely brilliant, in my opinion and serves to accentuate the mood that the filmmaker has been trying to capture. There’s also a kind of dramatic, passionate rhythm to the film which comes about as a result of sequences of recollections/interviews interspersed with the omnipresent Ayrton (played by Dorado) which makes the film quite playful and I believe, this works better in capturing an audience than simply showing photos. What this also helps to do is that it highlights the interviewees, the farm characters if I may, in a way which would otherwise have not been possible. 

The great dramatist and playwright Bertolt Brecht had conceived of theatre which would break western realism and involve dance, music and performance which would be termed “total theatre”. I think South Asians and South Americans have a natural tendency towards it in any and all kinds of performance. Thus we see the rich Tocantins folkloric art of the Epiphany, Catira, drumming and Suça, which were all quite admired by the little Senna. 

Thus what the film essentially does is that it doesn’t just tell the story of a boy or a few people but it grows into a narrative of a land, a community, its culture, its flora and fauna and how all of it shaped one person: Ayrton Senna. 

Sabarno Sinha is an undergraduate student of English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He was active in the debating and MUN circuit in Kolkata. Sabarno frequently writes short stories, poems and screenplays for short films. A lover of world cinema, Sabarno finds pleasure in watching contemporary as well as classic films from Japan, Italy and Germany among others.


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