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Emotional night at Senna screening
Emotional night at Senna screening
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 May 2011   |  10:31 am GMT  |  88 comments

Last night JA on F1 hosted a screening of Senna, the award winning documentary at the Curzon Mayfair, to an audience of 320 people; fans, F1 insiders, ex Senna mechanics and ex drivers. The evening was introduced by Sir Jackie Stewart.

The evening was supported by TAG Heuer and all proceeds went to the Grand Prix Mechanics Trust.

After the screening we did a Q&A session with the film makers Asif Kapadia and Manish Pandey and there were contributions from Senna’s rival in F3 Martin Brundle, Dave Ryan, the ex McLaren team manager, Clive Hicks and Kenny Szmanski who were Senna’s mechanics at Lotus, Prof Watkins, one of Senna’s closest allies in F1 and finally Terry Fullerton, the kart racer whom Senna once said was the best driver he ever raced against. They spoke about Senna, his qualities and how well the film represented him.

Brundle spoke about how the film made him reconsider so much of what happened in his career, racing against Senna and explained certain things that took place which he hadn’t understood before. He talked of how, on the podium at Monza in 1992 Senna told him that they were going to be team mates at Williams the following year.

Prof Watkins spoke about Senna’s humility and what a rare quality that is in racing drivers. He told a story about a time when Senna came for an appointment at his hospital in London and waited in the waiting room, with the other patients and pushed a lady ahead of him in the queue into Watkins’ surgery in her wheelchair.

But the appearance of Fullerton was amazing. Senna’s tribute to him is in the film and it was incredible to hear his thoughts on what it felt like to be described by arguably the greatest F1 driver as the best he’d raced against.

It was an emotional occasion, the first time that the film has been shown to the public in the UK and over 200 fans, who bought tickets through this site, were there to experience it and share in the fascinating discussion afterwards. It goes on general release in the UK on June 3.

We are preparing a video about last night’s event which we will post soon here on the site, with contributions from the speakers mentioned above. Some stills for it are posted above.

Thanks again to the Trustees of the Mechanics Trust, especially Sir Jackie Stewart, Martin Brundle and Dave Ryan, to TAG Heuer, to Universal and above all to Manish Pandey and Asif Kapadia for making it happen.

Here’s what GQ Magazine thought of the night GQ Review

If you were there please leave a comment on your experience of the evening.

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I’m sending you my review of the Senna movie – hope you find it of interest.




Thanks, very interesting


Terry from niche podcast anotherf1podcast here. This is our take on the night –

and a review of the film itself –

Grayzee (Australia)

As a long time Senns fan, and having heard about about the new Senna film, I dusted off and watched my copy of the videotape titled, Senna – Racing is in my blood”, a 50 minute autobiography filmed in 1992/1993.

This movie showed a lot of Senns the person, as well as early racing footage(including scenes teaching his very young nephew “Bruno” how to drive a powerboat)and I wonder just how much more is in the new movie.

Have you, or any of your readers seen both movies and can give a comparison?


How unfortunate that there’ll be no screening of this movie anywhere in Africa – a whole continent!


Hi James,

I read with a heavy heart about the evening that I had no chance of ever attending. But I want to ask this, will you consider bringing out a special edition DVD with the Q&A section of the screening? I would really appreciate that.




There will be a video about the event tomorrow morning on this site

Richard Craig

Are you able to post a list of where the film will be shown? I’d really like to see it on a “proper” cinema screen and am hopeful that the major chains (Vue, Cineworld, Odeon) will ensure it plays in at least one of their cinemas in cities such as London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, etc.

I am already resigned to having to watch it in an arthouse cinema (smaller screens), but the Edinburgh Filmhouse won’t be showing the film until the end of July (around 7 weeks after its release date). Hoping it might be part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival


Well, I guess I’m in the clear minority, but I found the film disappointing on a few levels. I saw it last night in Toronto at Hot Docs. Having convinced two friends to come who have no idea who Ayrton Senna was, or what F1 is, and listening to their confusion and questions afterwards (nothing about F1 is explained for a non-F1 viewer; little is put in to context), I asked the filmmaker during the Q&A who he made the movie for — F1 fans or a non-F1 viewer. He seemed offended at the question, as all his other answers alluded to how Bernie and the Senna family and a bunch of drivers have all told him how great the movie is. But I think it’s a fair question and one he didn’t really answer. Afterwards, I send the Top Gear tribute to Senna to my female friend who’d just seen the movie and she told me she finally understood what F1 was, and why Senna is considered an artist in a car.

All this said, the film is a stunning achievement of documentary filmmaking in that so many incredible scenes were captured by F1s TV crews and finally are being shown to viewers through this film.


Sorry to use this venue as a point of discussion, and by no means do I wish to be insulting – or be a defender of this film product. However, I don’t know what it is that your friends needed explanations for.

What is confusing about F1 in the context of this film? This movie is not about explaining car wight, power, down force, paddle shifting, active suspension, setup, tire types, etc.

If your friends didn’t know what these men were doing on the tracks and wanted an explanation about F1 as far as the movie period is concerned it should have been this. “Brave drivers risk their lives driving their dangerous race cars to win.” And if they had further questions about the technology, they are lucky to have a friend like you that could provide those answers. But those answers were by no means essential to the movie’s goal or one’s ability to enjoy it.

I think too many die hard F1 fans are going over the top expecting every detail explained in this movie to perhaps verify their knowledge – as indicated by the frequently geeky questions. I felt Asif addressed this point clearly. F1 technology is not relevant to the Senna story, and where it is, it is explained sufficiently and not technically detailed to the point that would make non-F1/non-tech viewer’s eyes glaze over. Time limitations also need to be respected, and this movie is perfect length in my view. There is no “fat” – it’s all “tender juicy meat” bits. This is a story with focus on the man, his passion, his desire to win, his ambitions, his humanity, his ability to inspire, and how we’re at a loss now that he’s gone.

The man’s legend is captured perfectly in the funeral scenes. Do you think those children, women, men who wept at his death and lined the funeral route were expert F1 fans? Lucky if 1% could have explained active suspension to us or even knew how many cylinders the engines had that Senna was winning with.

The limitations through which they worked – having Senna tell us the story were difficult.

I really liked that approach, because I’ve heard others color the Senna story for me for too long. I’ve tuned it out sometime in 2002 because I couldn’t pickup an F1 magazine without something about it. Now I got to see it with my own eyes what defined him and made him connect with so many – with no commentary, no opinion. I understand now why so many refuse to propel Schumacher past Senna as the greatest of all time on numbers and records alone. He simply fails to connect with as many as Senna was able to connect.


Thanks for your comments, Sebee.

Here are my thoughts.

This movie IS about F1, in that it is through F1 that we get to know Ayrton Senna. There are odd clips from home movies and the like, but the vast majority of the movie is from F1 television footage. And thus, to appreciate why Ayrton Senna is special, one needs to grasp the danger of the sport and how incredible some of his achievements were. For instance, when he outqualified Prost at Monaco by 1.5 seconds. To me, that’s a defining moment. But unless you know that 1.5 seconds is an eternity in F1, it’s a lost bit of gold. There are literally dozens of examples throughout Senna like this.

I am not a diehard F1 fan wanting this film to pull more people into the tribe of fans by selling them on its greatness. I didn’t want it to explain downforce or turbocharging or paddle-shifting. But I DID want my friends to understand why Senna was unique and extraordinary, and they both said they felt they didn’t get a full sense of that. And without a few basic bits of knowledge, there is no bar for them to measure him against others. This is a sports film, and thus, you need to understand a bit of the sport to fully understand the personality.

What the movie needed was a bit of outside narration to guide the uninformed viewer along. Just a bit.

Have you seen ‘Faster,’ the documentary about MotoGP? I know a lot about motorcycles and still, since buying that documentary, I’ve watched it countless times. It dumbs the sport down for an uninformed viewer, yet it also captures the drama and danger of it all. Some of that level of storytelling would have been appreciated in Senna.


This May 3rd evening in London seems to have become legendary. Stories from it made it over to Asif’s Q&A yesterday at Toronto’s Hot Docs.

I’m a big F1 fan myself, having traveled to some 15 GPs and watching for 15 years. But being in Canada, I started following in 1996 – when Jacques joined Williams. Of course I know the Senna story, but missed all the visuals and drama as it happened. The story has always been told to me through someone else’s eyes or through some else’s words. I feel like this film was made just for me – letting me enjoy the drama and see the story without it being colored by someone else, and with the highest attention paid to the quality of footage through which I got to see it. Extremely enjoyable. After seeing it, I went home and hugged the kids just a little longer. Those closing words by Senna about developing and growing further as a man choked me up. Some heavy stuff said by a man who’s life would be cut short. I congratulate the film’s team for making a movie that clearly will capture every audience from F1 fans that know the story to those that will learn for the first time who Senna was.



The movie, the guest stars and their speeches and the intimacy of the event all surpassed my expections significantly.

Thanks for organising and more importantly thanks for making F1 more accessible to the fans.


I have been very lucky to have seen this film when on hoilday.

I took my wife to see it and she wasnt keen but within the first 10 minutes she was hooked, we watched it without a word spoke until the end,

My wife gets bored very easily watching films unless the first part hooks her which she did,

When it was finished I asked her how she felt and what she thought about senna, and her reply was how fascinating the film was and she understood why I had been so excited to watch it she said that F1 misses a driver like this not only for his talent but because she said he wasnt afraid to speak his mind to the press in public or even to the FIA and other heads of the sport.

My wife even explained that she thought he was very down to earth and was a normal person compared to some drivers.

From my view the press he was under to deliver to the fans especially was emmense but he seemed so polite and always had time for everybody no matter who it was.

He is without doubt the most talented driver ever seen in this sport but very much a human being and cared for his fellow competitors more than it appears to have cared for his own life.

My wifes final comment was how did they block out the fact that safety was so lax, but she understood how exciting it must have been to drive with drivers like that.

I would have him on a table of top ten people id invite for dinner dead or alive.

Such a shame what happened.

But they do say


Ted the Mechanic

It’s nice to hear 1973 Karting World Champion Terry Fullerton was involved in the evening. Around 1991/92 I had the honour of interviewing Terry here in New Zealand when he was visiting his friend Kerry Rowe and I was editor of Auckland Kart Club’s monthly magazine. I had just read Christopher Hilton’s book “Ayrton Senna – The Hard Edge of Genius” so I knew of their history together and Senna’s respect for Terry. My interview didn’t win any literary awards however it was pretty special to chat with, firstly a World Kart Champion, and secondly someone who had raced against (and beaten) the great Senna who was one of my great F1 idols at the time. Something to do with the small degree of separation I guess…


I so wish I was there to see it. Im a Brit living in Malaysia and Singapore.

James – do youknow if it will get shown out here?


James can’t wait for this film to come to Australia. Was lucky enough to see Terry Fullerton race here in 1979 in the extreme wet at Oran Park, he was untouchable.



Are you aware of whether the film will be shown here in New Zealand and if so when?

It sounded like a great evening and well done for organising it.


Bob & Shaune McMurray



if you’re on facebook there is a Senna movie page, and I know manish and Asif answer questions posted on there.




Not sure about that. Will ask


James there is a possibility for the film come to Dominican Republic?

Here in DR there are very hardcore F1 and Senna fans. It’ll be a pleasure see it on the big screen.

Senna was the main reason of me becoming a Die for F1 fan.


Firstly a thankyou to James for organising this. I was lucky enough to be there, and it was one of the best nights of my life.

I was (am) a huge Senna fan – lucky enough to be at Donnington 93 – and even though I know the story like the back of my hand, the film bought out pretty much every emotion. I was sceptical it could be as good as the reviews, but it was far beyond that.

Also the guests that were there added an extra dimension – Hearing Sid talking was a definite highlight, but so were all the guests.

Thanks again James.


As everyone has said, it was an incredible experience and a privilege to be able to share it with all the other fans and some very distinguished guests. As I said last night, for me as someone who sadly didn’t get the chance to see Senna race it provided a real insight into what it was like to see him in action, and to understand the situation in the 1980s and early 1990s. The stories from Marin Brundle, Sid Watkins, the Lotus mechanics and the surprise guest Terry Fullerton were the icing on the cake, and in addition it was nice to see Terry get some recognition for his achievements. Finally, it was a pleasure to meet and chat with Sir Jackie, Lady Helen, Mark Stewart (whose latest film on Jim Clark may be on BBC2 soon hopefully), James, Manish and Asif after the film, and all involved deserve a lot of credit for what they’ve achieved.

Thanks again for organising the event James – rest assured I’m doing my bit to promote it to my friends, including the non-F1 fans!

jose arellano

James where can i get info of where can i see this movie in New York? im making a trip there this month and i reckon is my best chance to see it in a cinema.


Fantasic evening Great film for more information regarding the event Check out my blog that has some video of the Q&A session that took place after the screening. Miss the film and you will regret it.


Thanks for a fantastic night. We had the privilege of sitting next to Martin Brundle & Mark Blundell. I loved hearing the stories and memories from his mechanics and of course the legend himself, Sid Watkins.

A truly unforgettable night and amazing but emotional film.


Excellent night James, many thanks for organising it. It would be a great addition to the DVD if it included the essentials of the discussion with Manesh and Asif as fascinating background to the difficulties and achievements of making the film.

It explains so clearly how much they were forced to leave out, why so many moments that we remember and are suprised not to see are not there. Even Donington, and the great battle with Mansell down the straight which could only be included behind the credits.

And kudos for the extraordinary group of people you were able to call on in the audience, particularly Sid – a standing ovation, wonderful – Kenny and Clive, and the biggest surprise of all, Terry Fullerton.

Thanks again.



I’m an avid Senna fan and have also followed your commentary since watching you as a pit-lane reporter for ITV and I have to say you are my “go-to” authority on news in F1! I currently live in Canada and am desperate to see the Senna film – do you know if there will be a release at all over here or am I destined to have to wait until the DVD is on sale (do you know when this will be as well?)


I think it’s imminent. The premier is this week, I believe.


Like others I feel the need to thank James for arranging the fabulous opportunity which some of us were lucky enough to experience last night.

The film is totally absorbing and I learnt so much more about a driver I have always regarded as “the best”. Senna was a man with many layers to his personality – very special. I also learnt a lot about the history of the FIA and other drivers who were Senna’s main competitors. I have to say they did not always come out in a very favourable light at all.

The film is worth seeing even if you are not a motor racing fan. If you are and if you are a Senna fan, it is the icing on the cake.

I was also very moved by those who spoke who knew Senna, but it was a real privilege to be in the presence of Prof Watkins, a giant of the sport and a legend in his own lifetime. To hear him speaking of Senna, his compassion and humility was very special.

I’ll finish by saying thanks once more to all who made last night possible, the celebrities, the film makers, Tag Heuer and again, and particularly, James Allen


I watched this film last night, and must say having been a fan of Senna since I was a kid (I’m now 40)I found the film truely amazing.

Every year in May I think back to that sad day, and this film I found to be very emotional.

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone that brought the film to everyone 🙂


Please post those videos James,those behind the scenes moments from the real heroes lifes are the things that we the fans want to hear.

Could you do a presentation like this one,with all those great guests, here in NYC one of these days?

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