The question at the center of Asif Kapadia’s new documentary Amy is: Can gossip foster compassion? Throughout the sensitive, 128-minute probe into the life of singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, we see footage of (and presumably shot by) the paparazzi that plagued her, the performances that defined part of her career, the public inebriation that overshadowed it.
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.
Long before she sang of rehab and tears drying on their own, Amy Winehouse was a happy-go-lucky 14-year-old, as seen in old home footage from the new documentary Amy.