Amy Winehouse documentary wins raves but angers family

Amy Winehouse's Father Calls New Biopic Misleading

LONDON (AP) — In "Amy," performers as diverse as Yasiin Bey and Tony Bennett sing the praises of the late Amy Winehouse, and the documentary helps reclaim the talented, troubled singer as a musician, rather than a mess.

Critics love it — but it has left her family hurt and angry.

The singer's father, Mitch Winehouse, has branded the film inaccurate and misleading. He claims director Asif 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."

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Amy Winehouse documentary wins raves but angers family
British singer Amy Winehouse is pictured during a break in her trial outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London on July 23, 2009. British singer Amy Winehouse launched an 'unjustifiable' attack on a female fan who politely asked her for a photograph at a charity ball, a court heard on Thursday. The 25-year-old songstress -- said to be on the road to recovery from her drug addiction -- denies beating Sherene Flash, a dancer, in an incident in Berkeley Square, central London, on September 26. AFP PHOTO/SHAUN CURRY (Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON - MAY 8: Amy Winehouse performs on stage during the first day of the 'The Prince's Trust Urban Music Festival' at Earls Court on May 8, 2004 in London. The two-day show is the UK's largest ever urban music event and is backed by the royal charity. (Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)
LONDON - JULY 13: Amy Winehouse performs on stage as part of the Cannizaro Park Festival in Wimbledon on July 13, 2004 in London. The south London festival runs from July 10 to August 8 and features comedy, jazz, opera, circus and a production of Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' with Wayne Sleep. (Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17: Singer Amy Winehouse performs on stage at the Bristol Academy on November 17, 2004 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
LONDON - NOVEMBER 14: Singer Amy Winehouse performs live on stage at Koko in Camden Town on November 14, 2006 in London. England. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
London, UNITED KINGDOM: British Jazz singer Amy Winehouse arrives at the Earls Court Arena, London ahead of the Brit Awards, 14 February 2007. The ceremony will be broadcast live on TV for the first time since 1989. Comedian and presenter Russell Brand hosts. Oasis are to be honoured with an outstanding contribution to music award at the ceremony, where they will also perform. Amy Winehouse, Corrine Bailey Rae, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snow Patrol, Scissor Sisters and Take That will be among the other acts giving performances. AFP PHOTO/LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)
INDIO, CA - APRIL 27: Singer Amy Winehouse kisses fiance Blake Fielder-Civil during day 1 of the Coachella Music Festival held at the Empire Polo Field on April 27, 2007 in Indio, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
Belfort, FRANCE: British singer Amy Winehouse performs on stage, 29 June 2007 during the Eurockeennes Music Festival in Belfort, Eastern France. AFP PHOTO JEFF PACHOUD (Photo credit should read JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON - MAY 28: Singer Amy Winehouse performs At Shepherd's Bush Empire May 28, 2007 in London, England. (Photo by Jo Hale/ Getty Images)
Musician Amy Winehouse arrives to the 2007 MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 3, 2007 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images for MTV)
BALTIMORE - AUGUST 04: Singer Amy Winehouse performs onstage at the Virgin Festival By Virgin Mobile 2007 at Pimlico Race Course on August 4, 2007 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 01: Recording artist Amy Winehouse performs during the show at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2007 at the Olympiahalle on November 1, 2007 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images for MTV)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY PAUL RICARD British singer Amy Winehouse performs at the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, in Glastonbury on June 28, 2008. As the legendary Motown label turns 50, soul music is back and booming, ever since British diva Amy Winehouse hit world charts two years ago. The celebrated label , that brought Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross to the world has been marked by a re-issue of its seminal tracks. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
British singer Amy Winehouse arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court, in west London, on March 17, 2009. Winehouse appears charged with assault over an alleged incident at a charity ball last September. AFP PHOTO/LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
British singer Amy Winehouse (L) smokes a cigarette during a break in her trial outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London on July 23, 2009. British singer Amy Winehouse launched an 'unjustifiable' attack on a female fan who politely asked her for a photograph at a charity ball, a court heard on Thursday. The 25-year-old songstress -- said to be on the road to recovery from her drug addiction -- denies beating Sherene Flash, a dancer, in an incident in Berkeley Square, central London, on September 26. AFP PHOTO/SHAUN CURRY (Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images)
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Amy 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.

Kapadia, the British director of the acclaimed Formula 1 documentary "Senna," defends his film as a rounded portrait of the artist, built from more than 100 interviews with people who knew Winehouse. Childhood friends of Winehouse and first manager Nick Shymansky opened up to him. So did the singer's drug-troubled ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil and musical collaborators including producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, musician Bey (the former Mos Def) 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.

"She knew the dustman and she knew Mos Def. And she could talk to Tony Bennett and she could hang out with Questlove — she was amazing," the director said at the Cannes Film Festival, where the film had its world premiere in May. "The best of every genre (said) 'She's the real deal.'"

Avoiding the documentary staple of talking heads, Kapadia he layers audio interviews over archive images, including home movies and camera-phone footage of the 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. Kapadia says many found the experience cathartic.

Mitch Winehouse, however, argues that the film omits many of those 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 as 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."

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.

"Life is much more complicated," he said. "I have depression in my family. I have mental illness in my family. It's not simple."

Despite the Winehouse family's disapproval, fans will likely cherish the film for its look at the singer's vulnerable private side — and for its reminder of her talent.

For someone whose life was so closely documented, Winehouse has left a relatively slim musical legacy. There were two albums during her lifetime — the jazz-influenced "Frank" and the global smash "Back to Black" — and one posthumous collection, "Lioness: Hidden Treasures." There may not be any more — Universal Music U.K. boss David Joseph told Billboard magazine that he had destroyed her demo tapes so the unfinished material could never be released.

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

"For me that's a big part of it, the artistic journey that she goes through," he said. "The diary that she writes that becomes a poem that becomes lyrics — and the lyrics are fantastic. So much better than anyone realized.

"There's a lot of layers in there. ... She can drop in Thelonious Monk. She can talk about Nas. She can talk about this, she can talk about that, and somehow it works."

Winehouse's songs were deeply personal — as their titles reveal, from "Addicted" to "Rehab" to "Love is a Losing Game." They always sounded poignant; doubly so now.

Kapadia said since her death, "you cannot hear those songs the same way ever again. But you will hear, 'God, she was good.'"

"Amy" opens in the U.S. and Britain on Friday.

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Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless


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