Winehouse doc breaks UK box office record

Winehouse doc breaks UK box office record

Winehouse doc breaks UK box office record British director Asif Kapadia’s acclaimed and divisive film on Amy Winehouse has had the most successful debut of any UK documentary.

According to the music news website factmag, the film, “Amy,” nabbed just over $800,000 in the U.K. on its opening weekend, the biggest opening for a homegrown documentary and the second-biggest documentary opening ever in the UK, behind Michael Moore’s 2004 film “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Performers as diverse as Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) and Tony Bennett sing praises of the late Winehouse  in the documentary that strives to reclaim the talented, troubled singer as a musician, rather than a mess.

However, the singer’s father, Mitch Winehouse, has branded the film as inaccurate and misleading. He claims Kapadia depicts the family as doing too little to help the singer overcome addiction.

“They have selectively edited what I said to suggest that me and my family were against her getting any kind of treatment,” Mitch Winehouse told the Associated Press. “We took her dozens of times to detox and rehab over the years.”

A well-rounded portrait 

Winehouse died at 27 of accidental alcohol poisoning in July 2011, after a battle with drink and drugs that played out in front of the cameras and on tabloid front pages.

Winehouse doc breaks UK box office record

AFP Photo

Kapadia defends his film as a well-rounded portrait of the artist, built from more than 100 interviews with people who knew Winehouse such as childhood friends of Winehouse and her first manager, Nick Shymansky. Even the singer’s drug-troubled ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, makes a debut, along with her musical collaborators including producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, musicians Bey and Bennett, who calls Winehouse “the truest jazz singer I ever heard.”

Kapadia said the range of Winehouse’s famous fans is a sign of her musical stature and ability to feel at home in many worlds.

Kapadia layers audio interviews over archive images, including home movies and camera-phone footage of a young Winehouse shot by her friends. The approach meant Kapadia could conduct interviews off-camera, sometimes sitting in the dark to make subjects feel more at ease.

Most had never spoken publicly about Winehouse and many found the experience cathartic, Kapadia says.
Mitch Winehouse, however, argues that the film omits many who were close to Amy in the final years of her life, when she had kicked drugs and tried to reduce her drinking.

“The film portrays Amy in a downward spiral from 2008 to 2011,” he said. “They don’t want people to understand that in that last three years there were some terrible times, but there were some wonderful times.”

Film not about family 

Kapadia says he’s sorry the family feels let down, but insists the film is “not about them. It’s about her.” He says he’s not trying to blame anyone for the death of the singer, who also battled depression and bulimia.

While “Amy” depicts a media-fueled personal tragedy, Kapadia said he also wanted to celebrate an artist and her creative process.

The film opened last week in 133 cinemas across the U.K. and will expand to over 200 this week. Amy had a limited release in the U.S., opening at six theaters in New York and Los Angeles and taking just over $220,000 before its nationwide release this weekend.