Asif Kapadia: “I wanted to understand who Amy Winehouse was”

Asif Kapadia: "I wanted to understand who Amy Winehouse was"
Mars Movies

TMC is planning a special Amy Winehouse evening this Sunday.

Two documentaries on Amy winehouse will be broadcast tonight: Amy, from director Asif Kapadia, then Amy Winehouse, already 10 years old: the tragic fate of the soul diva. The first was released in 2015 at the cinema, and we had met its creator to talk about this latest tribute to the singer who died prematurely on July 23, 2011.

First: How did you get past Senna at Amy ?

Asif Kapadia : The director of Sony Music loved Senna and he came to see me and offered to do a doc on Amy. Senna was a legend. And I love sports. Amy is a Londoner, a girl I could have met in my youth; I could have gone to school with her, met her on a bus. What interested me was to go back to the beginning and see how it had exploded. What had really happened? She was someone like me or like my friends, a girl who got famous, too fast, too strong, because she was great. But at one point, everything broke. To answer your question, it turns out that there is a direct connection between Amy and Senna. Nick, his first manager in the movie, and his girlfriend were walking down the streets of London a few years ago. It was raining. They took shelter in a cinema and entered a room. Nick insisted on going to see Senna who was playing. They cried in front of the film and left the cinema moved. He would then have said to his girlfriend: “it would be great if someone made a movie like that about Amy”. Two years later I contacted him because I was starting my research on Amy and he said, “Normally I would have said no. I refuse all interview proposals. It’s too painful, too tiring, too stressful, but since it happened to me, how I would love someone to paint a beautiful portrait of Amy, I want to meet you ”

Is that the first witness you met?

No, I had already met people from the industry. But Nick was the first person to give me the key to the movie. I didn’t want to make a movie about celebrities talking about her, about Amy. I wanted to understand who she was, to get into her privacy, into her head. Collect personal things from her.

Why did you call the doc Amy ?

Because that’s the subject.

But why Amy and not Winehouse ? Vour previous film was called Senna and not Ayrton.

It’s really a funny question … But no doubt in order to demonstrate that we had to get into our privacy.

Senna was built on the Prost / Senna rivalry. How did you structure this one?

Songs. When I found out that she had composed her songs and put so much of her into them, I knew that was the key to the doc.

It’s not really a discovery …

For me yes. I did not know. I didn’t really know much about her and it allowed me to operate on instinct, without doing too much research. I have his records, like everyone else, but I’ve never seen him live and I didn’t know much about his surroundings. Maybe I’m lazy, but I never start a documentary by documenting myself. I just talk to the people around him …

Usually documentary filmmakers are obsessed with doing a lot of work upstream….

Not me. It would annoy me to do a doc on a subject that I know by heart. On the contrary. When I don’t know anything, I am in the shoes of the spectator, and I learn a lot of things by doing it. And what I find interesting, viewers may find interesting too. If it works ! I have no agenda, no preconceived ideas… Nothing. Just the facts and the videos.

But the trouble is, we already know everything about Amy Winehouse! He’s a tabloid star.

You think ? Because you know the end. But no one knows his beginnings. Did you know she wrote her songs?

Um yes.

And what was Rehab talking about? And you knew his album Franck?

Like many people.

I don’t think so, but that wasn’t the subject of the doc anyway. What interested me was to see what leads to his death. How do we get there.

And what do you think killed him?

I do not know. Many things. Her problems, the industry, the lack of love …. But I know what could have saved her. I think jazz could have saved her. That filming in small theaters would have protected her. Sing what she wanted to sing. This is what the film is about. About that and the problems that killed her. We all have problems in life (loans, breakups …) but she died because she never solved them and the industry has undoubtedly exploited her too much.

We have the precise impression of witnessing an industrial murder.

There are plenty of factors. Music is a complicated business. While doing this doc, I realized something very weird. In the cinema, when you make a film, there is a person whose role is to help people on a set. To check that everything is going well. He’s the assistant director. The director, the actors, the producers all have specific missions, but the assistant’s role is really to protect people. In music, this profession does not exist and I think that says a lot about this industry. The other thing that struck me was her death and the way the media treated her. It’s weird to make his disappearance so cool. A journalist dies at 27 and no one will think it’s cool! It’s stupid, sad. Uncool. The industry staged his death in a foul way. In my doc, I never wanted to make it cool. Because he was a complex, fragile personality who couldn’t get out of it. Her relationship with her parents, her boyfriend, her anorexia … Amy’s life was busy and she didn’t fix everything.

Amy: The director defends his “film honest and respectful towards Amy Winehouse”

You almost play the role of a shrink …

Not at all. But the heart of the matter is this talented girl who can not be happy and who burns herself. The subject of the film is that, and love. The one she hasn’t received, the one she would like to give, the one she’s waiting for… Her songs are all about that.

Never wanted to focus on creating Back to Black?

We are talking about it.

From afar. Amy is not really a docu on his music in fact

But if. Otherwise, what is the film about?

Of a little Jewish girl who fails to cope with success and love and ends badly.

But if I had done a doc on Back to Black it wouldn’t have made a good movie. The person she is when Back to Black is released isn’t the real Amy. You’re wrong if you start there, or if you just talk about it. You have to understand it and for that, you have to go back a little earlier. I didn’t want that Senna or a sports film. And I didn’t want that Amy or stricto sensu a film about music. It’s about an artist. It’s a film about art. There was no question of celebrating Amy. I wanted us to find out the real Amy. With good performances, bad ones.

No more bad ones!

There are very beautiful songs, sublime performances. But part of his career, the end, was a failure …

The end is precisely very procedural. Drugs, alcohol, rehab … you multiply the nightmarish scenes.

Because everyone knows that. We know two things about Amy Winehouse. It’s a singer. And she died as we know. Suddenly, I could content myself with documenting factually the end of his life. The real revelation is that before she had been happy. A lot of people cried at the start of the movie because they found out that she had been funny, clever, provocative, but in a good way. A lot of onlookers thought she was a bit stupid and would screw it up. The emotion of the film comes from the change. From the gradual slide from happiness to unhappiness.

You quote the tabloids a lot at the end, you put them forward, you even use the flashes to give rhythm to your film. Weren’t you afraid to pour in?

I hope I avoid this aspect there. That I am never in the exploitation. The tabloids allowed me to contextualize, to explain what was going on. I saw a lot of things much worse than what I left in the movie. Horrible, infamous stuff. But I didn’t keep them. Out of respect for her. I just hope I was respectful.

TrailerAmy :

Our review of Amy

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