OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

Amy

Winner - BAFTA and Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature

A star is born – all over again. Asif Kapadia’s documentary study of the great British soul queen Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27, is stunningly moving and powerful: intimate, passionate, often shocking, and almost mesmerically absorbing.

Poster art for AmyWe start with Amy’s teen years, circling back to a troubled though hardly deprived childhood in which she was deeply affected by her father Mitch walking out on the family – and then later, just as deeply affected by his returning, to become a strange sort of intrusive, ineffective and almost parasitic Svengali to her career. It was Mitch who crucially advised Amy against going into rehab, a decision which Amy herself noted in her great song, replete with agony, betrayal and self-doubt.

All of Winehouse’s advisers, promoters and managers jostle to assure us that they themselves were not responsible for Amy’s descent into drugs and overwork, and Kapadia simply lets us make our own mind up.

Inevitably, it is the song ‘Rehab’ itself which is Winehouse’s personal and musical moment of destiny, the moment of almost diabolic inspiration and autobiography and automythology which triggered her supernova of fame. The idea of defiantly not going into rehab challenged a celeb-pap industry which always slavered spitefully over famous people getting punished for their gilded lives by being unhappy. But Winehouse’s attack on the hypocrisy of the whole business was misunderstood. Her persona depended on not going into rehab, but instead on being devoted to excess. She became part of the narrative.

It is an overwhelming story, and despite everyone knowing the ending, it is as gripping as a thriller: Kapadia has fashioned and shaped it with masterly flair. 

– Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

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