AMY: Winehouse’s film debut beyond the grave

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Amy Winehouse arrived on the scene in 2003, when her first album ‘Frank’ was released. Listeners from all walks of life were immediately captivated by this rough-edged songstress, with her gravelly blues voice and retro-inspired look. Hailing from a musically inclined family, Winehouse enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame that took her from singing in small nightclubs to dueting with jazz legend Tony Bennett.

As the recently released documentary simply titled Amy demonstrates, the pressures of fame and fortune were too much for the troubled singer, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at the age of 27.


A Haunting Portrait

Amy is a documentary film that combines never-before-seen private video footage of the singer with commentary and interviews from family and friends. After its debut at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, critics lavished the film with praise; one Vanity Fair writer declared, “it is impossible to turn away”. Although directed by Asif Kapadia, it is Winehouse herself who posthumously contributed the most compelling footage — the singer and her friends were avid amateur filmmakers, recording plenty of revealing moments through the years.


Family Opposition

Despite praise from viewers and critics, not everyone is happy about Amy. The late singer’s family released a statement calling the film “a missed opportunity to celebrate her life and talent.” In addition, the Winehouse family denounced the film, citing “specific allegations made against family and management that are unfounded and unbalanced.”

Another detractor of the film is Reg Traviss, the singer’s fiancée at the time of her death. Traviss slammed the film in an angry letter to the Telegraph, calling it an “orchestrated spin.”

“They have taken her name and exploited her talent for their own ends, without taking the responsibility of reflecting the true person that she was,” he wrote.


The 27 Club

Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27 — the same age as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain. The series of deaths prompted the name the “27 Club,” with Winehouse as its newest member. According to the singer’s friends, she predicted she’d join the “27 Club.” In 2007, Winehouse was quoted as telling her mother, “I don’t think I am going to survive that long.”

Another prominent member of the club, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, was the subject of a recent documentary as well. The recently released Montage of Heck goes along the same lines as Amy, serving as a hard-to-watch portrait of a tortured performer who was both brilliant and uncontrollably self-destructive.


Rockumentaries Through the Ages 

Amy is a film that showcases Winehouse’s downward spiral, detailing her raging alcoholism and bulimia. But it is something more — a raw and honest portrait of a brilliant singer-songwriter who could have accomplished so much more. Films like this are compelling because fans can get an inside glimpse of the life of their favourite artist. The Vh1 network helped pioneer the “rockumentary” genre with their series Behind The Music, which chronicled the rise and fall of music stars through the ages, offering intimate footage of the rich and famous destroying themselves with drugs and scandal. Some artists returned from the brink of destruction, while others like Winehouse were consumed by their lives and paid the ultimate price.


What Critics are Saying

Amy is scheduled for release in Britain on July 3rd and in the United States on July 10th thanks to distribution from A24. The production company bought the rights to the film following its massive deal with DirecTV to acquire and release a handful of films exclusively through the provider. While fans of the singer will surely flock to theatres for this emotional tour-de-force, even those who aren’t familiar with her music should give the film a chance. Despite criticism from the Winehouse family and Reg Traviss, Variety declared the film “gruelling yet riveting.” Like Winehouse herself, this film is compelling and strangely beautiful, offering insight into the life of the private songstress and shining light on the perils of fame, fortune and youth.

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