“Amy,” the upcoming documentary about Amy Winehouse, is an unflinching portrait of how drug and alcohol addiction combined with a series of enablers led to the death of the famous soul singer at the age of 27. The film, directed by Asif Kapadia, was several years in the making after Winehouse’s 2011 death. It relies on audio interviews with Winehouse’s closest friends and family — including her mother, her father, her managers and her bodyguard — juxtaposed with personal never-before-seen videos of Winehouse.
The movie premieres on Saturday night at the Cannes Film Festival, where it’s sure to be an emotional tearjerker. A24 will release “Amy” in the United States in July. Here are nine of the project’s biggest revelations.
1. Winehouse suffered from depression and anorexia from a young age.
The film argues that Winehouse’s adolescence was influenced by her parents’ divorce: her father, Mitchell, left her mom, Janis, after carrying out a long affair. In an interview with the filmmaker, Janis admits that she wasn’t a disciplinarian, and Amy could get away with whatever she wanted. Her teenager years were very troubled — she took antidepressants, and told her parents that she was anorexic. At around 15, she confided in her mom, “I got this great diet,” Janis recalls in the film. “I eat what I want and then I bring it up.” Neither of her parents got her medical help.
2. She didn’t want to be associated with the Spice Girls.
Amy was 19 when manager Nick Godwyn, from Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment, took her on as a client. He eventually landed her a £250,000 deal for her first record, 2003’s “Frank,” at Island/Universal. But she later left him, because she didn’t want to have the same management team as the Spice Girls and “Pop Idol.”
3. Amy had no desire to be famous.
She says in a October 2003 interview that plays in the film: “I don’t think I’m going to be at all famous. I don’t think I can handle it. I’ll probably go mad.”
4. Her dad missed an early chance to get his daughter clean.
Around 2005, Winehouse’s friends staged an intervention to get her into rehab following drug and alcohol abuse. In her most famous song “Rehab,” Winehouse sings about how her father told her she didn’t need go into rehab, and Mitchell tells his side of the story in the film. “I said, ‘You don’t have to go to rehab,’” Mitchell recalls. “I think that’s the moment we lost a key opportunity. She’d have a chance to be dealt by professionals before the world wanted a piece of her.”
5. Her husband Blake Fielder-Civil introduced her to crack cocaine.
Winehouse’s roller-coaster relationship with Fielder-Civil, whom she met when they were both dating other people, is detailed in the film. Winehouse went into a spiraling depression after they first broke up, and they eventually reconciled and got married in 2007. After a honeymoon in Miami, they returned to home to London’s Camden neighborhood, where he introduced her to crack cocaine for the first time. But the movie goes easy on Fielder-Civil, suggesting that he too was a troubled addict, which may be controversial to Winehouse fans who blame him for accelerating her drug use.
6. Her father tries to cash in on her fame.
The person who comes off as the worst in “Amy” is Mitchell. After struggling to get clean — in 2007, she’s taken to the hospital with cocaine, heroine, alcohol and crack cocaine in her system — he pushes her to continue performing, so they don’t lose money on tour dates. In 2009, after Fielder-Civil is arrested on drug charges (and they divorce), Winehouse finally finds peace when she moves to St. Lucia and stops using drugs. But Mitchell shows up with a camera crew for a reality show that he’s filming about being Amy’s dad. In one scene, with the cameras rolling, he starts to lecture his daughter about being more polite to her fans when they ask her for photos, which causes Winehouse to erupt in anger. “Dad, you don’t want to make a mug of me,” she says. “Be nice to me on camera.”
7. She dissed Justin Timberlake.
In 2008, Winehouse won the Grammy for Record of the Year for “Rehab.” She’s in London on live feed when the category is announced, and she scowls when Justin Timberlake’s name is announced “His [song] is called ‘What Goes Around … Comes Around?” Winehouse asks in a mocking tone.
8. She almost stormed off a duet session with Tony Bennett.
Near the end of her life, she recorded the song “Body and Soul” with Bennett for his 2011 album of duets. Winehouse had grown up as a fan, and she makes nervous small talk with him when she enters the studio. But as soon as she starts singing with him, she stops mid-lyric and has a meltdown. “I was terrible! I was terrible!” she says, and tries to walk out. But Bennett calmly tells her to take her time, and they eventually finish the song.
9. The paparazzi wouldn’t stop stalking her.
One of Winehouse’s friends talks about how the Daily Mail would publish the most intimate conversations about their addiction, and suggests that they may have been hacking her phone. But even if they weren’t, Winehouse’s invasion of privacy is documented with chilling precision throughout “Amy.” She’s shown stumbling through the streets of London in a zombie daze, as a parade of paparazzi trail her, a byproduct of the TMZ celebrity culture. Images of her in pain are juxtaposed with latenight comics like Jay Leno cracking jokes about her disease. At the end of the film, Winehouse says she’d give away all her success just to be anonymous again. It eventually became too much to handle, and on July 23, 2011, Winehouse was found dead in her bed from alcohol poisoning.