July 1st, 2015
The new documentary about Amy Winehouse humanizes the story of an immensely talented and troubled singer
By MORDECAI SPECKTOR
I cheated myself / Like I knew I would / I told you, I was trouble / You know that I’m no good.
— “You Know I’m No Good,” by Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse rose to international fame as a gifted singer in the jazz and soul vein. Her retro look and catchy lyrics, often written as a sort of self-therapy, elevated Winehouse among her generation of young singer-songwriters.
Then she disintegrated, in full view of TV cameras and tabloid photographers. Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011. She was 27.
The tragic rise and fall of Amy Winehouse is chronicled in Amy, a new documentary film directed by Asif Kapadia. The film, which features previously unreleased music and never before seen footage from the singer’s early years, opens locally July 10.
The film tells an amazing rags-to-riches story, along the lines of Kevin Macdonald’s compelling 2012 documentary Marley, about Jamaican reggae superstar Bob Marley. Although both musicians died young, Winehouse’s demise coincided with the omnipresence of digital social media, and her struggles with drugs and drink were reported in lurid detail.
“Something happened with Amy Winehouse, and I wanted to know how that happened in front of our eyes,” said Kapadia. “How can someone die like that in this day and age? And it wasn’t a shock: I almost knew it was going to happen. You could see she was going down a certain path.”
Winehouse was raised in a Jewish family in North London, and Kapadia — who is best known for Senna, his 2010 documentary about Brazilian Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna — also is from that neighborhood.
“It’s bizarre, [Kapadia] went to the same school as her father [Mitch Winehouse], we realized when we were interviewing her dad. So that was a funny coincidence,” commented James Gay-Rees, producer of Amy.
Gay-Rees talked to the Jewish World via phone last week from Los Angeles, just before the West Coast premier of the film. Keep reading →