“Amy” takes best feature doc prize at Academy Awards

Asif Kapadia's Amy (pictured), on late musician Amy Winehouse, took the Best Documentary Feature prize at the 88th Academy Awards, held in Los Angeles on Sunday (February 28).
February 28, 2016

Asif Kapadia‘s Amy (pictured), on late musician Amy Winehouse, took the Best Documentary Feature prize at the 88th Academy Awards, held in Los Angeles on Sunday (February 28).

The archive-based film chronicles the life story of late British musician Amy Winehouse, who passed away from alcohol poisoning in 2011 at the age of 27, in her own words and through rare footage.

Accepting the prize, Kapadia – who was joined by producer James Gay-Rees on stage – said: “This film’s all about Amy. This was really about showing the world who she really was, not the tabloid persona. The beautiful girl, amazing soul, funny, intelligent, witty – someone special, someone who needed looking after. We just wanted to make a film to show who she really was.”

Realscreen caught up with producer Gay-Rees in July 2015, ahead of the documentary’s U.S. theatrical release, to discuss the challenges behind making the film.

“It’s just really scary [making a film this way],” said Gay-Rees in the interview. “It’s unbelievable how stressful it is. For certain points in time – there was just no footage for 2005 – and then suddenly you unlock it and somebody’s got exactly what you need. The thing about all-archive docs is they do take an enormous amount of time to cut.

“Obviously a huge amount of work has gone into it but it gets very scary sometimes because there’s just virtually nothing to work with,” he added.

In terms of other nominees and their director/producer teams, Amy beat out Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen‘s The Look of Silence, which took home Best Documentary honors at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday (February 27); Matthew Heineman and Yom Yellin’s Cartel Land; Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin WilkesWhat Happened, Miss Simone?; and Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor’s Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.

Elsewhere, the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short went to Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, exposing one woman’s survival after an attempted honor killing in Pakistan.

The film was up against David Darg and Bryn Mooser’s Body Team 12; Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck’s Chau, beyond the lines; Adam Benzine‘s Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah; and Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman’s Last Day of Freedom.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.