national Arts Festival Banner

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


(Amy Winehouse. Pic AlexLake)

Documentary on Amy Winehouse a work of art. (Review by Pranesh Maharaj)

Amy is a work of art. I mean it. It’s like somebody painted her life, albeit short. I like what Asif Kapadia, the director, decided to do with the narrative. ‘The narrative?’ you say. It is a documentary but put together so beautifully. I went to watch this film armed with the fact that I watched the TV documentary What Really Happened – The Amy Winehouse story. So, I was able to soak in the more intimate bits of Amy.

Many artists suffer similar fates and for various reasons. A guest who came along to watch thought initially that this is just the circus of another artist’s short-lived life. What with all the baby videos and stills that it opens with, I would have guessed the same. As if Kapadia decided to take us on a journey of a normal girl from a typically dysfunctional family who has the support of her grandmother and so you think nothing can go wrong. I have my own deductions amidst the family dissing this film and I will give it to you straight. Nothing was ever wrong with Amy; it was the people around her.

Expect some shaky shots as almost the entire movie is made up of bits of video taken by handheld cameras and phones. What I found very intriguing was that Kapadia deliberately used Amy’s eyes for most of his transitions. It wasn’t haunting. It was full of soul. ‘…he went back to her and I went back to black’.

The other documentary didn’t make me feel for Amy’s life like this one. I now want to listen to her more, I want to feel her music more and I want to understand her more via her work. One of the things that I took away from this film was that Amy Winehouse’s poetry was brilliantly fused with her unique and melodious voice; she brought a new sound to jazz. Many musicians spend their entire lives trying to come up with a new sound. She just had it. She didn’t set out to create it. It was who she was.

The film does end with a deep jab at the people who acted with less or no interest in Amy the person; and deservedly so. The shutter sounds of paparazzi cameras make for a symphony backing her tragic demise. The texture of video clip sound, the recorded commentary of friends and family; and the background score evened out very nicely to keep the viewer glued to this piece that was very respectful to Amy. It is PG16 and you want your kids to watch it.

Produced by James Gay-Rees, Amy will run at Cinema Nouveau, Gateway, from May 6 to15. - Pranesh Maharaj