Oscars Winning

'Amy': Anatomy of an Oscar-Winning Documentary

AmyTue Mar 01 14:55:37 EST 2016

British filmmaker Asif Kapadia takes archives, editing and honesty to a new level with this tragic portrait of the late singer Amy Winehouse.


Finally, now that the Academy delivers screeners of the five documentary nominees to all the voters, the winner is often the most high-profile winner. Last year it went to Laura Poitras for "Citizenfour, " and three out of the last four winners have been music docs: "20 Feet from Stardom, " "Searching for Sugar Man" and now "Amy."

A24 "Amy"

"Amy, " which debuted at Cannes, beat out an amazing list of must-sees for the Oscar: Matthew Heinemann's lauded Mexican border doc "Cartel Land, " Joshua Oppenheimer's "The Look Of Silence, " the sequel to his Oscar-nominated Indonesian genocide expose "The Act of Killing, " which won the Spirit Award, and two Netflix docs, "What Happened, Miss Simone?", in which Liz Garbus shows us the darkness gleaming off the edges of soul's high priestess, Nina Simone, and "Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom, " Evgeny Afineevsky's large-scale narrative of a revolution.
At first blush “Amy” is a searingly depressing documentary. Something about the way London filmmaker Asif Kapadia edits his multi-media portrait of Amy Winehouse is profoundly disturbing. We know going in that we’re going to see a train wreck, and maybe we feel a tad guilty about wanting to look at it. We all carry media images, clips, moments that we have witnessed online that form our own image of the gifted but troubled singer.

And we also are all-too familiar with the trope of the talent who heads down the wrong path, unsupported by family and loved ones, distracted and destroyed by drugs, exploited by the people who want to make money off them. Again, Kapadia (“Senna”) skirts these shoals and digs deeper to deliver more.

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