Amy is a powerful and haunting documentary by Asif Kapadia that looks at the rise, and tragic fall, of talented singer Amy Winehouse through intimate pictures and home videos, and the remembrances of those closest to her.
The cautionary story that Amy Winehouse’s life – and death – has become is well known, but this documentary cleverly and cannily fills in many of the blanks, revealing the very human person behind the diva’s persona. Amy begins with a home movie of a 14-year-old Amy Winehouse and her friends, and features similar home movies and images that certainly will not have been seen by the general public before.
The documentary takes a chronological look at Amy Winehouse’s life, from the shy-but-promising young singer to modest jazz singer-songwriter to celebrity diva and drug-addict, with the narrative being told by friends and family. Amy is shot in a dynamic way and avoids the needless images of talking heads giving their take on the situation that often dog documentaries like this. Instead, the conflicting and conflicted narration is played over stylised images and videos of the singer, creating an engaging juxtaposition between the audio and visuals. Amy’s parents, friends, ex-husband, manger and bodyguard, among others, variously take up the narrative, and this choir of voices serves to paint a fuller picture of her life. Kapadia also uses Amy Winehouse’s own music, whose lyrics were biographical in essence, to effectively allow Amy Winehouse herself to speak.
The entire documentary leads up to the tragic events of 23rd July 2011 and Amy Winehouse’s death, and looks at the numerous opportunities that were missed to save her. Most disconcertingly, Kapadia looks at the part that the media and general public played in her death, asking some very uncomfortable questions about celebrity.
With a rival documentary by Amy’s father Mitch in the works – after he first backed and then renounced this one – any look at the tragic star’s life is going to be fraught with controversy. However, Kapadia’s efforts are more than worthwhile and paint a tantalising portrait of the talented-but-troubled singer.
Mahmud El Shafey
Amy is released nationwide on Friday 3rd July 2015.
Watch the trailer for Amy here: