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‘Amy’ movie director Asif Kapadia: ‘I felt like I owed it to her’

‘Amy’ movie director Asif Kapadia: ‘I felt like I owed it to her’

July 3 2015

Last night an expectant audience at the East End Film Festival was treated not only to a special screening of the film, but got a chance to quiz the director and Hackney boy himself on the making of his already much acclaimed documentary about the singer Amy Winehouse, who died in July 2011, aged just 27. The film goes out on general release today in the UK…

By Tasha Mathur

SCREENED as part of the East End Film Festival in London last night, “Amy” is a film that gives an intimate insight into the late singer’s life and is created entirely through archived footage from personal home videos to professionally documented film.

Interspersed with voiceovers from those who were closest to Winehouse (best friends to bodyguards), “Amy” gives audiences a well-rounded picture of the Winehouse that the mass media (perhaps?) failed to share with the world.

In the Q&A session that followed the screening of the film at the Rio Cinema in Hackney, Kapadia explained he was compelled to make it because of her Winehouse’s character.

ACV
A still from the film, 'Amy'

“She was the girl next door. I didn’t know her and yet it felt like a very personal story,” Kapdia said after the screening.

And having spent three years speaking to approximately 100 people and trawling through hours of archival footage, it would have been impossible for Kapadia to have stayed emotionally objective about the subject, he intimated.

“The interviews became therapy sessions. Nobody wanted to be a part of the film. Nobody wanted to speak about something so painful, so I did audio interviews.

“They’d initially be bottled up and the moment they’d open up, everyone would start crying. And when they left, I could tell they felt a little bit better.

“Then I would end up carrying this stuff. I’ll be honest, there were some pretty heavy stories. But I felt like I owed it to her [Winehouse] and all these people who have been carrying this grief and pain. It was quite emotional for everyone.”

Amy” didn’t come without controversy as Winehouse’s father, Mitch, believed himself to be portrayed negatively and even called for a re-edit.

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Asif Kapadia at the Q&A with critic Jason Solomons pic:Jody Pirrone/EEFF

However, when asked about this yesterday, Kapadia insisted: “The film is an honest representation. It’s not trying to point the finger at a certain person. Somewhere in her life, she got lost. Everyone else was making these calls and they weren’t necessarily making it for her.”

“We had to show what was going on and it wasn’t always comfortable for people but it wasn’t great for her. I’m not the kind of guy who’d spend three years to pick on someone.”

While it is certainly clear that Kapadia’s aim isn’t to blame anybody, he cleverly touches upon all of the factors that may have contributed to Winehouse’s demise, allowing the audience to make up its own mind.

There was Winehouse’s father who seemed keen to capitalise on her fame; her drug and alcohol fuelled relationship with husband Blake Fielder; the constant paparazzi hounds and the hungry public – which ultimately means…us, as an audience.

It’s difficult to watch the film without at one level thinking: ‘Are we complicit as voyeurs watching this?’

It seems Kapadia agrees when said: “It felt weird that we knew this was going on. Everyone knew what was going on. We all saw Serbia [where Winehouse refused to sing on stage and flounced about]. We all clicked on it, viewed it, shared it, laughed at it.”

So while it’s easy to blame the cold, heartless media for displaying Winehouse’s life as an open book, there seems to be a far more subtle suggestion that they may have simply been giving the public what they want.

Nevertheless, “her life was lived in front of a camera and it was a conscious decision to show her relationship with the camera becoming more aggressive,” explained Kapadia.

And what would Amy Winehouse think of the film? “She would publicly hate it but I’m sure she would rather people have a rounder picture of her,” mused Kapadia.

One thing is for certain. You don’t have to be an Amy Winehouse fan to appreciate this beautifully constructed film. It’s depressing, torturous, frustrating as well as fascinating and will leave you with a far greater appreciation of the young singer whose life was taken all too soon.

 

tashamay

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Previously
‘Amy’ film Review – Cannes 2015

Main picture at top: Jody Pirrone/EEFF

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