Winehouse Documentary Shows Fame’s Dark Side

Celebrity-worshipping Cannes got a sobering reminder of fame’s dark side Saturday with “Amy,” a powerful documentary about the late singer Amy Winehouse.

“I don’t think I’m going to be at all famous,” a teenage Winehouse says at one point in the film by British director Asif Kapadia. “I don’t think I could handle it.”

Photo: Matt Dunham/AP, file
Posing for photos at a studio in north London.

Winehouse was a global celebrity when she died in July 2011 of accidental alcohol poisoning at age 27.

The sense that the singer foresaw her fate lends extra poignancy to the film, which is getting its world premiere at a Cannes midnight screening.

Musician Yasmin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, performed at a party before the premiere, along with jazz singer Gregory Porter and new artist Cosmina.

Bey called Winehouse a “dear friend” and “one of the realest” people he had ever met.

“I’m doing the songs that Amy never heard but I know she would like,” said Bey, who sprinkled rose petals on the floor in her honor. “This one’s for you baby girl.”

Kapadia, who made the acclaimed documentary “Senna” about Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna – another star who died young – interviewed 80 of Winehouse’s friends, family and collaborators for the film, layering their words over footage of the musician from childhood onwards.

Winehouse emerges as a vibrant personality whose soulful voice and intensely personal lyrics made her a star, but whose struggles with depression, bulimia, drugs and alcohol were worsened by the pressures of sudden fame.

Some journalists at a press screening shuffled uncomfortably in their seats at the sight of the media frenzy that surrounded Winehouse after her second album, Back to Black, made her a star – and her erratic behavior made her tabloid news.

Winehouse’s parents appear in the film, which is due for release in the U.S. in July. But they have also recently criticized it, calling it “unbalanced” and saying it suggests family members did too little to help the singer overcome her addictions. A family spokesman said Winehouse’s parents did not plan to attend Saturday’s premiere.

But no one emerges as an outright villain in the film, which shows how people who cared about Winehouse tried, and failed, to curb her demons.

One of the final shots is of Tony Bennett ranking Winehouse in the pantheon of singers alongside Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. It’s a moving end to a sad, cautionary tale.