Amy Winehouse documentary aims to set the story straight
'I wanted to make the film to get the answers,' explains Amy director Asif Kapadia
The new documentary Amy aims to paint a personal portrait of Amy Winehouse that goes beyond the tabloid legacy left behind after the late British singer's death by alcohol poisoning in 2011.
After he directed the award winning documentary Senna, about late Brazilian Formula One racing car driver Ayrton Senna, Asif Kapadia was asked by Universal Music to direct a film that would show a fuller portrait of the troubled Back to Black singer.
"There were so many questions," Kapadia told CBC in a recent interview. "Like, why did it happen? Why was she on stage, why was she performing, why is everyone letting this happen? I wanted to make the film to get the answers."
Kapadia knew he'd have rights to her music and to extensive footage, but given that he and Winehouse were both from North London, he also felt his subject was close to home.
Personal videos and memories
Kapadia conducted 100 interviews for the film, several of them with friends from Winehouse's teen years who allowed him to use their personal footage.
Their videos show a young Amy playing pool, attending birthday parties and just goofing around.
He started the project without knowing this early footage even existed, then not knowing if he'd be allowed to include it in his film.
"The challenge of the film was to get people to trust me enough to hand over their personal memories of someone who is now no longer with us," Kapadia explained. "Someone who they saw was slowly dying and being humiliated and mistreated publicly, so those memories are even more precious to them."
In addition to revealing the real person behind the soulful Grammy winner, Kapadia hoped to explore why the enormously talented musician self-destructed at the tender age of 27, at the height of her career.
"You have this ordinary girl, with amazing talent," Kapadia said, who also touched on Winehouse's struggles with bulimia, depression and her contact with her parents.
Not to mention the drugs and the alcohol and the British tabloids pouncing on her every false move.
As for her father's role in Winehouse's downfall, Mitch Winehouse has said publicly that he feels the film unfairly blames the family and him personally.
- Amy Winehouse's family says documentary about singer's life is 'misleading'
- VIDEO | Winehouse's last recording
But, as her hit single Rehab highlights, and as the film underscores, it was "daddy" who famously thought the troubled singer was "fine."
The director leaves the audience to draw its own conclusion.
Sang from her heart
Controversy aside, Tony Bennett, after his Body and Soul duet with Winehouse, compared her voice to Ella Fitzgerald's. However, it's the profoundly personal nature of her songwriting that left the biggest impression on Kapadia.
"All of these are real moments, real incidents, real people in her life that she documented and turned into songs. It's actually like a page from her diary, taken right from the heart and put out there."
Watch highlights from our interview with director Asif Kapadia in the video above.