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‘Amy’ in pictures by Asif Kapadia

As Asif Kapadia’s heartbreaking Amy Winehouse documentary hits cinemas, the director shares the pictures that show the genuine side of the troubled singer

By Cath Clarke

Away from the towering beehive and the applied-on-the-bus eyeliner, away from the tabloid 'trainwreck' headlines and even from the huge talent, who was Amy Winehouse? The answer in Asif Kapadia's amazing new doc (watch even if you're not a fan) is a funny, blunt, vulnerable woman. Kapadia (who also directed 'Senna') sifted through thousands of hours of footage and interviewed her friends and musical collaborators to make ‘Amy. 'The biggest job for me was to earn the trust of everyone,' he says. 'But I think they realised quite quickly that we wanted to find the real girl.' Here Kapadia picks the five images - mostly taken by Amy Winehouse's friends and family - that touched him.

Amy and Juliette - Amy Winehouse documentary

Amy and Juliette, aka Sweet 'n' Sour

‘This is Amy and her friend Juliette recording a song together as Sweet ’n’ Sour – instead of Salt-N-Pepa. And it’s good. I’ve heard it. Amy was Sour. They’re probably 11 or 12. Juliette’s stepdad had a recording studio and they’re taking it really seriously. It’s not kids messing around. They lost touch for a bit when Amy turned famous and things got dark, but they were still in contact by phone.’

Amy playing guitar - Amy Winehouse documentary

Playing guitar

‘This is Amy at her friend Lauren’s house. I think she’s about 17 or 18 here. They’re all quite musical, her friends and family. Amy talked about how she put all her problems down into a book of poetry and turned something bad into something good. Her escape from feeling down was to make music and write.

‘This was a creative period. Her first album was pretty much done at 17, 18. She knew what she wanted. She would fight with the label about which songs should go on the album. I liked that she was mouthy. She lived on fast-forward, to have lived all of those lives before writing them.’

Amy in Camden - Amy Winehouse documentary

Amy in Camden

‘This is in Jamon Jamon, a restaurant Amy and her mates used to go to when she moved to Camden and things started to change. It also sums up the idea of her. From a very young age she had her own flat. She moved out at 16, had her own money and did her own thing. This was still when it was fun, all very happy. They’re all friends from childhood and their families knew one another.’

Amy in New York - Amy Winehouse documentary
© Nick Shymansky/Film Magic

New York ❤︎ Amy

‘This is Amy in New York. She went over there with her managers to try and get a deal. It’s just a very sweet picture because she’s looking right at Nick [Shymansky, her manager] and she’s very happy. They were going around, recording, doing demos, getting producers. They couldn’t really get a deal on the first album, so there were a few downs along the way. But this picture is about the relationship between her and the lens and her and Nick – how close they were. She looks great, healthy and happy.’

Amy Winehouse performs at Joe's Pub - January 16, 2006
© John Ricard

Amy and Mos Def

‘I didn’t know Amy was friends with Mos Def. Lovely guy. He’d lost a lot of friends who’d died of various things, but he didn’t want to preach to her. The picture is taken at Joe’s Pub in New York, a club in Manhattan where she played in 2007. That was an industry show. Jay Z was at that gig and Mark Ronson. Everyone who saw it said she was amazing. But already she was drinking a lot, pulling at her dress, pulling at her hair, really nervous. And from that point it goes downhill. That’s the sad thing. Every show after that was slightly diminishing returns. Her last real creative act was at 22, but she’d already touched all these top musicians: Paul Weller, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Mos Def, Jay Z, Tony Bennett. You think: How did she manage to touch all of them?’

Read our review of ‘Amy’


4 out of 5 stars
Film Documentaries

Anyone with a beating heart will be forgiven for allowing it to break during this unflinching and thoughtful account of the life and death of the soul singer Amy Winehouse. A shattering and sensitive documentary, it's directed by Asif Kapadia, the British director of 'Senna', who has once again created an immersive, layered portrait by stitching together mostly existing footage. Much of it is shot on phones or Camcorders, capturing chats in cars, holiday banter or, more cruelly, intimate moments with foil and crack.


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