Amy is a devastating documentary from Asif Kapadia that provides a brutal critique of celebrity culture. Eschewing traditional talking head interviews for home footage, the film draws its audience into an intimate relationship with Grammy-award-winning singer Amy Winehouse, who died unexpectedly from alcohol poisoning after prolonged drug abuse. The result is a startlingly humanizing portrayal of a musical genius and the troubling family and cultural dynamics that led to her death.Kapadia’s innovative narrative techniques (characteristic of his 2010 documentary Senna) may create the impression that the film is less “scripted” than traditional documentaries but it is just as carefully crafted. Viewers are made to feel uneasy, first as voyeurs peering into Amy’s personal life via home footage, then assaulted by the manic flashing lights of the paparazzi cameras aimed at Amy, all the while coming to the shattering realisation that Amy Winehouse was a true innovator and musical talent and it was those closest to her who were most responsible for her undoing.
Kapdia miraculously avoids representing Amy as a victim at the same time that he forces us to question our complicity in this unsavoury celebrity culture. Amy will continue to haunt long after the credits have rolled.
by Andrea Sandor