Asif Kapadia’s Amy ★★★★

‘This is someone trying to disappear.’

Amy does not simply present a fuller picture of the iconic Amy Winehouse. Rather, Asif Kapadia provides us with intimate access to the fragile girl behind the stardom whilst simultaneously offering a powerful insight into the destructive side of celebrity culture.

Kapadia’s documentary reaches far beyond the media’s portrayal of Winehouse; alongside public interviews and acceptance speeches we see personal home videos and studio rehearsals, and hear from those who were closest to her—including her notorious ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil. Kapadia skilfully pieces these materials together to coherently depict Winehouse’s story, documenting her promising beginnings to tragic ending. In doing so, Amy both presents and penetrates the media’s one-dimensional picture of Winehouse as a self-destructive addict, enabling a deeper understanding of her true identity by providing us with access to her from all angles.

Sitting through some low-quality archive footage and occasional generic panning shots of London which accompany interview clips is certainly worthwhile for the feeling of authenticity created by these limited resources. This sense of realism is key to Amy’s appeal and is complimented by the soundtrack which acts as a narrative voice. As a singer-songwriter, Winehouse’s lyrics follow her life events, thereby strengthening the film’s impact as a moving piece of cinema whilst deepening our understanding of the star herself. We are encouraged to consider Winehouse as a person rather than to regard her as a musical icon, as these lyrics are not only part of her songs, but also tell her story.

Kapadia’s factual style—similar to that found in his BAFTA award-winning documentary Senna—results in a poignant absence of drama. Winehouse’s lifestyle and tragic fate is not glamorised for the sake of a rock ‘n’ roll tone or to pay tribute to the infamous 27 Club. Instead, Winehouse is sombrely depicted as a victim of our celebrity-mad society and aggressive harassment by the paparazzi. Amy also underscores the disconcerting role played by the singer’s father, Mitch Winehouse, who told the filmmakers, ‘you should be ashamed of yourselves’ for portraying him as a forceful managerial figure. As a result, Kapadia asks us to reconsider our preconceptions of Winehouse’s death as self-inflicted, instead portraying it as a tragic consequence of the pressures which surrounded her.

However, it should not be overlooked that the accounts given by those closest to the singer are inevitably biased, resulting in a documentary which dubiously implies Winehouse’s helplessness and innocence—glossing over her culpability in deciding to turn to such a damaging escape route.

Nevertheless, Amy successfully depicts and celebrates Winehouse’s vibrant personal life and career. What’s more, the film’s poignancy guarantees a moving experience for the viewer; in the screening you could have heard a pin drop as the audience was gripped throughout, and many left with a tear in their eye.

If nothing else, this documentary will reignite an interest in Winehouse’s work and lead you to acknowledge the loss of a stunning musical talent.

 

Samuel Abrahams’ Offline Dating ★★★★

‘Nice lamp…Would you like to go on a date with me?’

In the space of 6 short minutes, Samuel Abrahams’ film beautifully captures the romantic intricacies attached to the old-school ways of dating, making us question whether dating technology has taken a large chunk out of traditional romance?

Offline Dating is an endearing, romantic and heartwarming short-film documenting the whimsical attempts of the protagonist Tom to ask a girl out on a date completely offline. The film attempts to topple the recently manifested view that asking a girl out in the middle of the street is ‘taboo’.

In fact, in an interview with Vimeo, Abrahams said that the film was an attempt to show “the difference between the ‘us’ we present online and the ‘us’ that exists in real life.” As Tom is rejected time and time again, started on by a boyfriend and lulled into exposing a sense of his endearing vulnerability, the optimism of Abrahams as a filmmaker shines through – it is not an attack of online dating, but more a plea for a return to the fun nuances associated with face to face interaction.

Not only is the concept of this film superb, but the way in which it is shot and edited should be a lesson to all prospective filmmakers. The observational point of view coupled with the fact that the camera is constantly moving, pulling in and out of focus but maintaining smooth tracking shots, creates beautifully shot sequences. During the 6 minute film, the camera compliments Tom’s charming efforts as it doesn’t force interaction with the people it is filming. Instead, Abrahams naturally captures the small gestures and heartwarming intimacies that all contribute to making this film authentic, funny and inspiring.

Although a film itself, Offline Dating demonstrates how these romantic stories don’t just happen in fictional films. This just might be the film that cultivates a returned wave of actual romantic gestures through real encounters…and a movement away from creepy GPS systems and misogynistic messages over a phone.

You can see the film below:

Joe Guglielmino’s Strange Rumblings in Shangri-La ★★★★

Jean-Claude Van Damme levels of cool as the film takes surfing to Iceland.

Jean-Claude Van Damme levels of cool as the film takes surfing to Iceland.

James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon discovers and describes Shangri-La as a fictional paradise; a search for the apotheosis of utopian existence in our world. It is both within and without, being an island located outside of the known world, yet within it at the same time. The very title of this self-proclaimed psychedelic surf experience is one that mystifies, confuses yet entices the spectator, as it enticed us at neighbourhood noise. The supernatural, mystic nature that surrounded the film’s release were transposed to Victoria Park for the evening in an attempt to capture the worldly experiences that the surfers and crew from Globe encountered. The cryptic directions given online to actually find the film only contributed to this mysticism: ‘The Pagoda, Victoria Park’. It doesn’t help if you naively don’t know what a Pagoda is and are then thrown into an enormous park on the outskirts of London. It also doesn’t help when every other person in the park have no idea what a Pagoda is. Regardless, we eventually stumbled upon the infamous Pagoda in Victoria Park, and when realising that it is a tiered tower building often found in historic East Asia and quite a remarkable landscape in the park, an overwhelming sense of embarrassment waved over us. With our new found knowledge, Strange Rumblings in Shangri-La was beginning to make even more sense. Tiki huts, a free colourful food stand serving indian street food and a free bar set within a culturally aware tent all surrounded the Pagoda, embracing the many different cultures that Globe and the surfers experienced on their travels; an intimate touch to share their encounters with a unknowing audience. Upon arriving, we instantly knew this would be more than just an ordinary premiere of a film – this was to be an experience. A belly dancer allured people out of their comfort zones to join her in her dance and rewarded them with an ominous key; this key unlocked a locker containing Globe surf boards, skate boards and goodie boxes – before the film even began, the event celebrated the way in which surfing is accompanied with a gross appreciation of varying cultures. Four free cobras in, we took our seats on the cushions and rugs provided, and under a reddening sky, the 16mm film began to roll. Globe’s use of 16mm film gave the film an incredibly authentic edge. As the surfers travelled the world from Iceland to Mozambique, each location was captured through long surf scenes accompanied by an inspiring soundtrack. The shots, the surf and the 16mm cameras were the focus of the film as the three combined to create a beautifully poetic representation of an extreme sport. The psychedelic nature of the film was captured in the opening scene where the focus of the film was made apparent: the beauties of surfing. Some of the world’s best surfers were captured in this authentic film leaving the audience’s jaws dropped throughout. The soundtrack in conjunction with the 16mm film created a supernatural feel to the extreme sport, enhancing the poetical and artistic nature of surfing. The surfers travelled the world in search for the perfect wave – the Shangri-La of surfing. Although there was only a slight documentation of the actual travels, the way in which the director uses intermittent shots to capture an aspect of the country’s culture whilst shooting the surfers in action creates a photo montage effect demonstrating the power of film and photography. The focus of the film was to illustrate the artistic effects of 16mm film and how that contributes to the psychedelic surf experiences that the film encourages. The whole experience of this premiere was inspiring; the beauty of surfing as a sport was undeniably present and the coming together of man and nature through film, music and sport demonstrates how the film is the epitome of artistic and sporting talent. Globe proved that Shangri-La can be achieved through creative and interactive art.