Manish Pandey's doc "Senna" heads for Sundance
James Gay-Rees, who wanted to make a documentary about the death of Senna at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. “Senna was my absolute hero, a guy from a Third World country coming to Europe and showing he was as good as them. His death was one of the most traumatic events of my life; it was like losing an older brother,” Pandey recalls. “But I didn’t want to do a film on his death, because that was missing the point. I wanted to make a film about his life.” So began an intense six-year journey for Pandey, working alongside Gay-Rees and director Asif Kapadia. This culminated in October with the world premiere of “Senna” in Tokyo to coincide with the Japanese Grand Prix. The film has since been released in Brazil, and will get its North American premiere at Sundance in January. Pandey’s role went far beyond that of a mere screenwriter, reflected in his producer credit. He won the trust of Senna’s family and gained unprecedented access to the Formula One vaults. He pitched Universal to get the greenlight, and edited intensively with Kapadia to shape an emotional narrative using archive footage alone, letting the images speak for themselves without talking heads or a conventional narrator. His next project is a drama, though also based on a true story from the world of Formula One. Titled “Figlio,” it’s about automaker Enzo Ferrari and his paternal relationship with his drivers. “It’s the only other motor racing story I’ve ever wanted to tell,” says Pandey, who’s writing it on spec with another surgeon friend, and wants to produce it himself. “I’ve got the bug for producing. Writing has never been enough for me,” he says.