Amy is the opening feature of the European Film Festival which will be screened at Cinema Nouveau in South Africa from 6 to 15 May. The first screening is tonight at 08.30pm.
The documentary uses what looks like amateur footage painstakingly put together to present a sympathetic portrait of the singer. Scenes shown stretch from that of a little dark-haired girl, to a happy, chubby-cheeked teenager, through to the final sad image of a small, lifeless body being stretchered into an ambulance.
Amy Winehouse was a gifted jazz singer, songwriter and musician. Her songs reflect her thoughts and the makers of this documentary have used Winehouse’s own lyrics to piece together a life story. Amy lived mostly in London and comes across in the film as an intelligent, humble individual. She loved jazz and enjoyed singing in small, intimate clubs. But her talent made her famous, especially after she toured the USA, and Amy began performing before massive crowds. The star suffered from bulimia and started drinking heavily and using drugs, a combination which ultimately led to her early demise at just 27 years of age.
Her parents, while not exactly vilified in Amy, are presented as the initial cause of the singer’s emotional problems. A weak mother, a pressurising father, a broken marriage, and their failure to treat Amy’s early onset bulimia, all led, the documentary proposes, to a young woman who needed boundaries and love. Fandom, the paparazzi, and her marriage are presented as later pressures on the struggling performer.
A particularly harrowing scene is watching the singer simply fall apart on stage in the Ukraine, a concert she had not wanted to do in the first place.
I was never a fan of Amy Winehouse and had dismissed her life and death as inconsequential. Amy the documentary, however incomplete or partial it may be, showed me the person behind the persona, and I repented my shallow judgmentalism. I was left saddened by the death of this vulnerable young woman.
Amy screens at Cinema Nouveau on 6 May at 8.30pm and on 14 May at 5.30pm. Visit www.eurofilmfest.co.za for more info on the European Film Festival.