After an Award Season Screening Series of the five Best Documentary Nominees hosted by TheWrap last week for entertainment professionals in West Hollywood, Amy Winehouse’s former manager Nick Shymansky spoke openly about “Amy.” This powerful documentary captures the highs and lows of six-time GRAMMY Winner Amy Winehouse’s life, in a way that felt like the “truth” to Nick.
And this “truth” in storytelling has contributed to “Amy” being the most awarded documentary of the year, and likely Best Documentary winner this upcoming Oscar Sunday (February 28, 2016).
Amy Winehouse was an English singer/songwriter who magically “sang like Tony Bennett” and tragically passed away at the young age of 27. “Amy” pulls together unseen backstage footage from the singer’s road trips, recording sessions and concerts that feels very raw and real.
Because so many tried to make money after Amy’s death by releasing albums that were demos and publishing books in six weeks, Nick explained that he was initially opposed to this documentary. Nick expanded, “When I first got the call (from Director Asif Kapadia), I was really unhappy. I did not want to have anything to do with the film.”
After about a month of calls from Asif searching for the truth, Nick broke down. He confessed, “About two weeks later, I was walking out of the house with my hard drive, my tapes and my photos, and Alice my wife said, where are you going, and I said to give Asif everything I’ve got on Amy. She’s like, what, what, have you gone mad? And I said, no, he’s the man. If anyone’s ever going to get to the bottom of this, it’s this guy. And I said to Asif, I’m trusting you, do whatever you want, but just make sure you tell the truth.”
And it seems as if Nick’s instincts were on the money based on the popular response to this film that tells the story of a young adult struggling with demons that many 20-somethings deal with, including depression, bulimia, and addiction (drugs and alcohol).
On top of romantic challenges (that many can relate too), the film brilliantly portrays how Amy may have felt after winning six GRAMMYs and the public wanting so much of her. And after seeing the paparazzi go nuts taking photos of her, the film really makes you think twice about approaching a celebrity for anything.
Nick expanded on the process they went thru to uncover the truth, “For me personally, the documentary film came along, dedicated a lot of time, spoke to a lot of people, had a lot of arguments, a lot of people giving him (Director Asif Kapadia) sh*t, and I said to him the whole way thru, you’re going to get shot down by the people who own the copyright,… and that was my insight on how complex making a documentary is, and that’s without risking a life and that’s without going to a war zone.”
Towards the end of this panel, Nick reflected, “It’s remarkable. And no way near the level of depth of these things (other documentaries), but I got a chance to have that investigation and to see someone roll up their sleeves, and get in and get to the bottom, and I watched this film and go, yeah, that feels like the truth. Imagine what these people in Mexico feel or the Ukraine, or anywhere where people take the time and find the truth.”
Acknowledging how hard it is to compare making “Amy” to fellow Oscar Best Documentary Nominees, it really is a powerful story that connects with audiences on so many levels.
Congratulations to all 5 Best Documentary nominees:
“The Look of Silence” (Director Joshua Oppenheimer about Indonesia mass murder)
“What Happened, Miss Simone?” (Director Liz Garbus about brave Artist Nina Simone)
“Winter on Fire” (Director Evgeny Afineevsky about Ukraine’s uprising)
“Cartel Land” (Director Matthew Heineman about internal Mexican cartel struggles)
“Amy” (Director Asif Kapadia)
It was remarkable to hear how these documentary films got made. TheWrap CEO Sharon Waxman commented with a smile to the panelists, “We know you’re not in it for the money.” So here’s a toast to anyone who ever made a documentary film to tell the truth about a difficult topic.
Tune in to the 88th Academy Awards on ABC this Sunday, February 28, 2016, at 4pm PST/ 7pm EST to honor these filmmakers and all the Oscar Nominees.
© Liz H Kelly @LizHKelly, National Digital Entertainment Columnist