Recommended Viewing Situation:

Listening to Frank with your eyes on the screen.

Running Time: 128 minutes.

Format: Digital Film and HDV.

Director: Asif Kapadia.

Editor: Chris King.

Cinematographer: Matt Curtis.

Awards:

 Academy Awards Best Documentary Feature; ACE Eddie Awards Best Edited Documentary; British Academy Film Awards Best Documentary; Outstanding British Film Nominated; British Independent Film Awards, Best British Independent Film Nominated Best Director Nominated Best Documentary Nominated Producer of the Year Nominated Outstanding Achievement in Craft Nominated; Cannes Film Festival L’œil d’or Nominated Queer Palm Nominated; Edinburgh International Film Festival Audience Award Nominated Best Documentary Feature Film Nominated; Empire Awards Best Documentary Pending; European Film Awards Best European Documentary; Grammy Awards Best Music Film; International Documentary Association Best Feature Award Nominated; London Film Critics’ Circle Film of the Year Nominated; British / Irish Film of the Year Nominated Documentary of the Year; Satellite Awards Best Documentary Film; Toronto Film Critics Association Best Documentary Film Runner-up; Women Film Critics Circle Awards Best Documentary by or About Women – and more.

 

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It was long after her death in 2011 that I realised the ferocious talent of Amy Winehouse. She was a gifted songwriter whose music will reach beyond the generation that raised her. I have this documentary to thank for that revelation. Amy: The Girl Behind The Name (2015) is the tragic biography of Amy Winehouse, a British Jazz musician who was an opiate to the ears, recalling the musical innovation of Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday or Wayne Shorter.

Director Asif Kapadia (Senna 2010) deftly sweeps the malicious British tabloid image of the spoilt and excessive Miss Amy Winehouse ‘Pop Star’ out of the mind from the first scene. A gentle and honest film, Kapadia does nothing more than tell the truth. He follows Amy from her time as a boisterous young Jewish girl in North London, to her final existence as an exhausted super star, squeezed and wasted by the vice of human greed. Expressed via home videos, answer machine messages, interviews with her BFFs and testimonials from her doting ex-manager Nick Shymansky, Amy explores the depth of Amy Winehouse the human. Watching her laugh, love and joke throughout her career is eye opening to the realities of this superstar as a humble and (although I don’t like to use the term) ‘real’ person, who thought and felt like the rest of us. Owing to the editorial prowess of Chris King, the documentary casts a suitable and satisfyingly harsh light on her heroin spreading ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil and her ruthlessly exploitative father Mitch Winehouse.

The magic of this film is that we understand Amy Winehouse as a victim of the ‘culture industry’ but by no means is she polemically made out to be a hero in the face of evil. Her music, lyrics and youthful vivacity are what enlighten us to a real Amy; a young woman drawn to life’s excitement (put best by Rolling Stone writer, Peter Travers) like a ‘fragile moth’s attraction to the flame’. Saddest of all, we understand how closed off Winehouse became from the people who really cared for her, and the extremes that were taken to keep her on the ultimately destructive past that ended her life so abruptly. The film is a monument; you will watch a budding young star struggle with shameless media depravity, only finding reprieve in the arms of the contemporary American and British jazz scene which inspired her so heavily. Amy is touching, delicately paced and an homage to music and the people that hold it dear.

-Matthew Iredale