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Doc Talk

Doc Talk: In Southbridge, on the pitch, into the past

Soccer legend Diego Maradona (pictured celebrating Argentina’s World Cup victory in 1986) is the subject of a documentary by Asif Kapadia.
Soccer legend Diego Maradona (pictured celebrating Argentina’s World Cup victory in 1986) is the subject of a documentary by Asif Kapadia.Bob Thomas/Getty Images/file/Getty Images

The eclectic and intriguing program of features and shorts at the Shawna Shea Film Festival (Oct. 2-5) includes a pair of documentaries that take a look at two of life’s toughest transitions — switching careers and death.

Kip Weeks is the subject of Jessica Barnthouse and Stacy Buchanan’s 2018 film “The Man in The Mask” (Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. at the Starlight Gallery, Southbridge). Weeks thought he might have a shot at a movie career when he landed a small role in James Gartner’s “Glory Road” (2006) and later as a killer with a bag over his head, in the 2008 horror film “The Strangers.” But then came the disappointing auditions and the unreturned phone calls that are the lot of most aspiring actors. Frustrated, he and his wife left Los Angeles for Portland, Maine, where they started a successful all-natural children’s toy company. But he still dreamed of stardom, and Barnthouse and Buchanan follow his efforts over the years, from the dismal turnout at a horror convention in Kentucky, to a leading role in an indie film that just might restart his career, and maybe end his marriage.

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Robert Heske’s sardonically titled, thought-provoking “Afraid of Nothing” (Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. at the Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center) ventures into undiscovered country — in Salem, for the most part — to learn about the mysteries of life and death. It returns with an inconclusive report. Among those encountered are a past-life regressionist, a ghost hunter, an exorcist named Little Frog, who looks like he could be a wrestler in the WWE, and an astronomer who claims that “there is no solid nothingness.”

Goal oriented

The title subject of Asif Kapadia’s documentary “Diego Maradona” might have been the greatest soccer player of the 20th century. He was also perhaps the most tragic. Born in the wretched poverty of Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, he started playing for Naples in the 1980s and transformed a derided underdog into a championship team. The city, one of Italy’s most impoverished, was rejuvenated. People there, especially the poor, idolized him.

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But overwhelming fame corrupted him. He became arrogant and dissipated, developed a cocaine habit, and schmoozed with a Neapolitan crime family. Fans who once regarded him with the reverence reserved for San Gennaro, the city’s patron saint, turned on him, ensuring his downfall.

Winnowing hundreds of hours of previously unseen footage into a taut two hours and employing voice-over commentary from Maradona himself as well as teammates, coaches, friends, and family members, Kapadia follows the classic dramatic arc of Maradona’s life but also exposes the sometimes-sordid facts underlying the myth. From his impoverished childhood, to his triumph as an Adonis-like superstar, to his decline into an obese, recovering addict tearfully confessing his failures on an Argentine talk show, Maradona proves a complex, infuriating, and even inspiring figure. Like Kapadia’s 2015 Oscar-winning “Amy,” about doomed pop singer Amy Winehouse, his new film presents a grim parable about the pitfalls of celebrity and success.

“Diego Maradona” premieres on HBO Oct. 1 at 9 p.m. and can also be seen on HBO GO, HBO NOW and on demand.

Refusing to forget

Maria Martin, a hunched-over octogenarian, takes her walker and hobbles to the highway where she places fresh flowers on the guardrail. During the Spanish Civil War, Fascists in her village murdered her mother, and this is the location of the mass grave where they buried her naked body. “I was 6 years old,” she says in a hoarse whisper.

As seen in Robert Bahar and Almudena Carracedo’s “The Silence of Others,” she is one of thousands whose loved ones and family members were murdered in the war and afterward during the Fascist leader Francisco Franco’s four decades of dictatorship. After Franco’s death, in 1975, the perpetrators of these and other crimes were granted amnesty by the so-called Pact of Forgetting. None will be brought to justice, and their deeds have been erased from history books.

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But some of those victimized, like Martin, can never forget. They include a deceived mother, robbed of her newborn by a state eugenics program; an old woman who has traveled from her exile in South America to reclaim her father’s bones; and a former political prisoner who lives down the street from his unpunished, now-prosperous torturer. Their only redress is a 2010 lawsuit that has been stifled by the Spanish judiciary system.

Haunting and infuriating, this winner of Spain’s 2019 Goya Award for best documentary bears witness to the price paid for denying the past.

“The Silence of Others” can be seen on PBS’s “POV” Sept. 30 at 10 p.m.


Peter Keough can reached at petervkeough@gmail.com.