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Stars: Featuring: Amy Winehouse, Tony Bennett, Salaam Remi, Yasiin Bey, Lauren Gilbert, Juliette Ashby, Nick Shymansky, Andrew Morris, Raye Cosbert, Mark Ronson, Blake Fielder-Civil, Mitch Winehouse, Janis Winehouse, Tyler James, Nick Gatfield, Lucian Grainge, Guy Moot, Darcus Beese, Monte Lipman, Chris Taylor, Alex Clare, Ian Barter, Sam Beste, Phil Meynell, Chip Somers, Alex Foden, Shomari Dillon, Cristina Romete, Dale Davi

Director: Asif Kapadia

There’s no doubt that Senna director Asif Kapadia’s documentary about the rise and fall of six-time Grammy winning singer Amy Winehouse is a powerful and illuminating piece of work.

The editing together of fascinating, previously unseen, archive footage, interviews and, notably, Winehouse performing during her short and, as Kapadia and his colleagues so vividly portray, ultimately doomed life,

We see Winehouse wanting to move out of her London home at the age of 13, watch her undoubted talent as a unique jazz singer and lyricist burgeon, before withering away under the influence of drink and drugs, leading, inevitably as Kapadia all too vividly shows, to her early death.

As fiction, her life story might well fill every demand of traditional Hollywood biopics. Sex, drugs, marriage, divorce, rehab, exploitation and hounding by the media are essential catalysts to a story that starts with success and ends with Winehouse’s heartrending breakdown on stage in Belgrade.

I admit to knowing little other than Winehouse’s name and media coverage prior to seeing the film.

Kapadia makes it clear from interviews and archive footage that he believes his subject was subjected to exploitation by both her father Mitch - he turns up on St Kitts where Amy is attempting to dry out and recover, complete with a film and sound crew – and by the ever-hungry media.

I can’t help feeling, though, that the filmmakers are also exploiting her.

In the final analysis, I leave it to you to decide whether Amy is biography or hagiography.

(One final thought: the movie is produced by Film Four, the cinema arm of publicly funded Channel 4: so you can expect it to turn up on TV sooner rather than later).

Alan Frank

UK 2015. UK Distributor: Altitude. Colour.
127 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 3, Swearing 3.

Review date: 02 Jul 2015