Being AP (2015) is a documentary about AP McCoy’s last racing season, not just one of Britain’s greatest jockeys, but one of the greatest British athletes ever. I entered the film a tabula rasa, with no knowledge of the AP, nor British horse-racing (their tracks have hurdles!)
The documentary has its standard genre conventions, but miss them in nontraditional ways. There are the standards, such as of a few interviews and stock footage of both home and the race track. But the “voice of god” that helps structure the film is more accurate termed the “voices of the sports industry”, as the overarching narration of the film comes from sports broadcasters of various kinds. Voices of radio or TV personalities accompany scenes of travel or other such boring but essential connective tissue. These broadcast voices explain what we do or don’t know, setting up the stakes for the next sequence of footage, or commenting on a previous scene. These voices add a layer of commentary to the film, covering the basic of “how is the public responding to this?”, trusting the film’s audience to understand the function of such audio texts.
The film looks pretty good, no doubt aided by the opulence of the sport itself. Scenes of AP at home are filled with the riches of his career, both his numerous racing trophies and his wealth in general. The horse racing footage is occasionally spotty due to the roughness and agility of the sport. But the filmmakers craft moments of great intensity, where I found myself gripping my hands as we the audience anxiously hope that AP wins the race.
Sports are a form a theater. This notion helps explain why they can be so riveting. It is all about the art of performance, an art form intrinsically linked to the passing of time. In this respect, the filmmakers of Being AP capture this element perfectly, exploring AP’s addiction to sport, and its ramifications on both himself and his family. A physical and psychological exploration, Being AP works quite well as a documentary insight into one of Britain’s greatest competitors.