For months, Mitch Winehouse has waged a public battle against Asif Kapadia’s documentary Amy, which premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival and opens Friday in select theaters. In chronicling the ascent to fame and downward trajectory of Amy Winehouse, Kapadia’s film does not paint Mitch in the best light. Through his behavior and other people’s reporting of it, Mitch comes off as an opportunist who enabled his daughter’s self-destruction and who prioritized her fame over her health. The last bit seemed to have been corroborated by Amy herself in the hit single “Rehab”: “I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine,” she sang in a reference to an intervention staged by her then-manager Nick Shymansky. It ended, according to accounts in the film, when Amy sat on Mitch’s lap, acting like a little girl, and he told her that she didn’t have to go to rehab if she didn’t want to. Shymansky says that if she had gone to rehab, her seminal Back to Black album may have never happened.
Mitch doesn’t deny the incident, but said that there were other times not covered by the film when he attempted to get his drug- and booze-addled daughter into treatment. That’s but one of the grievances he discussed in detail in a recent LBC interview.
It can’t be easy to live with the loss of your daughter and to watch a documentary that essentially places a substantial part of the blame on you. Addiction is not a simple disease, not the least for those who experience it through a loved one. Mitch initially participated in the documentary willingly and only disavowed it after he saw an early cut. He says the most recent edit is “better” but still has several problems with it.
In April, the Winehouse family issued a statement claiming that the documentary was “both misleading and contains some basic untruths.” But then, Mitch’s words of rebuttal are also misleading and contain some basic untruths. If we can’t trust Amy for its objectionable content, per Mitch, how can we trust him?
The fact of the matter is that it’s much easier to check his words against those in the doc, which are spoken by a variety of personal friends and professional associates of Amy’s. Mitch takes issue, for example, with the way a 2009 documentary he filmed is presented in Amy. Six years ago, when Amy was vacationing in St. Lucia, after years of tabloid scrutiny and the constant strobe of paparazzi cameras whenever she set foot outside, Mitch went to visit her, with at least one camera in tow. Mitch says the finished product was portrayed as a reality show in Amy, but was actually a “a documentary about the problems families are facing dealing with addiction.”
That’s bullshit. Whether you want to call it a reality show or a documentary, the resulting 23-minute special that aired on Channel 4 in 2010 was called My Daughter Amy. It was not about families, but a family (Mitch’s) dealing with addiction...of a superstar relative (Amy). Kapadia’s handling of My Daughter Amy seems to be extremely important to Mitch, who reached out to Forbes’s Melinda Newman to refute things she had written in her review of Amy. Newman reprinted Mitch’s comments to her, and here is what he said about My Daughter Amy:
The reality show that you refer to was a documentary that I made concerning the problems families face with addiction. Amy knew that and was happy to take part. Again the film shows something completely different.
Actually, My Daughter Amy shows something different—a star who clearly went to an island to escape the world and its surveillance who warily regards her father when he shows up with a camera, which is exactly how it’s portrayed in Amy. He arrives in St. Lucia and we hear his own voiceover: “It’s two days before I finally get to see her, and when I do, she’s obviously uncomfortable with the camera being there.” Obviously. There’s some footage of Amy on the island sprinkled throughout, and then a decision is made to stop filming precisely because Amy was, in fact, not happy to take part in Mitch Winehouse’s show about himself. As Mitch explains:
We felt that the camera is starting to become a bit intrusive and I don’t think it’s really appropriate. I’m fully aware that everybody wants to see her and they want to see how she’s doing and everything else, but let somebody else be responsible for that, not me. We spend our whole time with security and myself keeping camera crews and photographers away from her and again I’m starting to question my own motives and why am I bringing anyone close to her. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking to myself, “Well we got…wouldn’t it be great if we could get Amy doing this or doing that?” And what’s the difference between that and somebody, a paparazzi, a photographer, saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could get her falling off a horse?” Something like that. So right now this is the way that we’re going to play it.
You don’t have to take my word for it or his, for that matter, just watch the damn thing:
The only thing slimier and grosser than Mitch Winehouse making My Daughter Amy is his attempt to spin it as something that was pro-social and met with his daughter’s full participation. It just wasn’t. This guy is at least a part-time charlatan.
He also smarts at Amy’s suggestion that he was an absentee father—he says he worked nights in the LBC interview, while the segment of the documentary he’s referring to actually deals with his infidelity. “I was a coward but I felt that Amy was over it pretty quick,” we hear him say in the film, regarding his handling of his affair. Those are his own words. He told Newman that “the last 6 weeks of [Amy’s] life—5 weeks and 4 days—were spent sober,” except that doesn’t account for her disastrous live show on June 20, 2011 in Belgrade, during which she was clearly inebriated. Amy died July 23, 2011. Perhaps, Mitch meant to say “four weeks and four days.” Who knows. Who knows what this guy is going for except for letting himself off the hook.
That doesn’t mean he’s totally incorrect and that Amy is a perfect vessel for the absolute truth. Hardly. It’s a documentary made by humans, thus fundamentally biased even if made with the best of intentions. That the filmmakers haven’t acknowledged this is troubling, too. In response to Mitch’s initial disavowing of Amy, a “documentary spokesperson,” per Rolling Stone, issued this statement:
We came on board with the full backing of the Winehouse family, and we approached the project with total objectivity. We conducted in the region of 100 interviews with people that knew Amy. The story that the film tells is a reflection of our findings from these interviews.
Total objectivity is a myth. However, it’s one of several in this story.
[Image via Getty]