EIFF 2015: Asif Kapadia's astonishing documentary about the late soul singer
British director Asif Kapadia rightly won a lot of admirers for his 2010 Formula One documentary Senna. Though even that pales next to his latest real-life study, an emotive look at the late singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since Winehouse died, aged just 27, of alcohol poisoning. The way the tabloids presented it, she cut an increasingly tragic figure as she seemingly frittered away her talent on a cocktail of drink and drugs.
Kapadia has no interest in raking over old gossip, though. Digging beneath the scandals, Amy attempts to paint a picture of her from the early days – the Jewish girl from North London who loved singers like Tony Bennett and gradually took to writing her own material. Tracing her path from meeting her first manager Nick Shymansky, to recording her debut album Frank, Kapadia cuts audio interviews to archive footage, often culled from home movie collections belonging to Winehouse’s friends and family.
This creates what can only be described as an incredibly intimate look at the singer, as she went from a daydreaming girl to a celebrated superstar with the release of second album Back to Black. And, using some shocking stills, Kapadia doesn’t shy away from her fall either. Yet it’s in the context of clips showing her lighter side – whether it’s her wonder at winning her first Grammy, or larking about on holiday with her friends – that the gravity of her loss really hits home.
From eerie aerial shots of Winehouse's beloved Camden Town to the way her lyrics appear on the screen, Kapadia’s artistic decisions all chime, while his use of her songs is never less than haunting. Punchy, provocative and just plain sad, whether you’re a fan of Winehouse's music or not, Amy is a film you’ll be thinking about for days after.
Screening on Thu 18 and Sat 20 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015. General release from Fri 3 Jul.