Amy is capping its stellar awards season run with Oscar gold. The film detailing the life of the late Amy Winehouse won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
The film, from director Asif Kapadia and producer James Gay-Rees, followed the Back to Black singer from the early beginnings of her career in the late ’90s through her death in 2011. Amy relied on home movies of Winehouse to open a compelling window into her life.
“Really, this film is all about Amy, this is all about showing the world who she really was: not her tabloid persona, the beautiful girl, the amazing soul, funny, intelligent, witty, someone special, someone who needed looking after,” Kapadia said in his acceptance speech Sunday night. “We just wanted to make a film to show the world who she really was.”
Gay-Rees dedicated the award to “the fans, Amy’s fans who loved her through thick and thin; that’s all she ever really needed.”
Backstage, the filmmakers talked more about how Amy Winehouse’s public persona conflicted with the version of herself she showed her loved ones. “A lot of people particularly in the U.S., I have to say, they almost summed Amy up in one word: She’s a trainwreck,” Kapadia told reporters. “The biggest thing is now people think of her in a very different way because she’s an amazing talent, she was so clever, she was beautiful, she was healthy, she had friends, she had people who cared for her. There’s so much more to her and actually most people say they just wanted to give her a hug, they just wanted to give her some love, and that’s great, but sadly she didn’t get necessarily that love when she was around.”
It’s a sentiment that echoes what Kapadia has said about what the filmmakers set out to do in creating the documentary. “She was a really strong woman, this amazing personality who had an awful reputation and whose humanity got lost along the way,” Kapadia told EW last summer. “It became a mission to make a film that does right by her.”
“Amy is a rare thing to watch,” EW critic Leah Greenblatt wrote in an A review, “neither hagiography nor hatchet job but a full, unvarnished portrait that brings a larger-than-life icon back to earth — and makes her infinitely more interesting for it.”
Kapadia emerged as the odds-on favorite against in a category that included the Mexican drug war investigation Cartel Land, a review of the Indonesian mass killings by The Look of Silence, a first-hand primer on a revolution in Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, and a biography of jazz singer Nina Simone, What Happened, Miss Simone?
The British-Indian director’s prior documentary, Senna (2010), focused on late Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna. Like Amy, Senna received rave reviews.
Additional reporting by C. Molly Smith.