Asif Kapadia hadn’t been a particular fan of Amy Winehouse when she was alive. He was, of course, aware of her, both the tabloid coverage and the assurance from friends he trusted that she had one of the best voices ever to be recorded. When he took on the project of making a documentary about the stormy life and all-too-early death of the singer, he found himself rethinking everything he thought he knew about her. It became his mission to counter the tabloid image with that of the bright and brash teenager with ambition, guts, and talent who never expected to be a star, and was completely unprepared for stardom when it arrived. He’s succeeded. Part of that is his method: clips of Amy, including a wealth of home movies, that has her talking directly to the camera. It does more than just tell her story: it allows us to get to her on a personal level that would have otherwise been impossible. It also compels an emotional investment that makes what happens heartbreaking for the waste of a life, and infuriating because those around her couldn’t, or wouldn’t, save her.
When I spoke with Kapadia on July 6, 2015, media hype, getting her friends to trust him with her story, and why he prefers to use only audio in recording his extensive interviews were among the many topics we covered while we discussed his film, which is on my top 10 list for docs in 2015. He also shared the serendipitous nature of how he became involved in the film, why he never has a Plan B, and an incisive dissection about the nature of celebrity.
AMY is his piercing documentary about the rise and very public fall of singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse. Using archival footage of Amy talking directly to the camera, and voiceover reminiscences of those closest to her, the film considers both the private demons that tormented Winehouse, and the media frenzy that fed up on them, while also showcasing her enormous talent as an artist, and how she channeled her private pain into her art. Kapadia’s previous work includes the documentary SENNA, about another talent that died too young
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