Amy Winehouse. Photograph: Alex Lake
Amy Winehouse. Photograph: Alex Lake

Hackney-born film director Asif Kapadia has been nominated for an Oscar for his documentary about the life and career of Amy Winehouse.

Amy was nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category, and will go up against What Happened Miss Simone? as well as non-music related documentaries The Look of Silence, Cartel Land and Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.

Amy is the highest grossing British documentary of all time, surpassing Senna, Kapadia’s 2010 documentary about the Brazilian Formula One driver.

Speaking to the Hackney Citizen and East End Review, Kapadia said he was sorting out his tax receipts when the announcement was made yesterday.

“It’s been winning quite a few prizes, but I’m very superstitious and you don’t want to get carried away so I was trying not to think about it. Luckily our film starts with the letter ‘A’ so it was the first one up.”

Despite critical acclaim and box office success, Senna was overlooked on the Oscar shortlist for 2012, making the nomination for Amy all the sweeter.

“Our aim was to show people the real girl, the real Amy – and in that way I think we succeeded,” said Kapadia.

“At least now people have more compassion and love for her now than maybe before. I think she became a bit of a tabloid persona, tabloid character, when actually she’s high art, she’s a real natural phenomenon and someone for London to be really proud of.

“Hopefully if this happens again and someone else has what appears to be a public breakdown we’ll show a bit more love and compassion and not attack them.”

After wins last year for Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Ida) and James Lucas (The Phone Call), Kapadia is happy to be flying the flag for Hackney at this year’s Oscar ceremony, as fellow East Londoner Idris Elba lost out for his role in Beasts of no Nation.

“I’m a Hackney boy born and bred,” he said. “I was born in Mother’s Hopsital which is no longer there, I went to Tyssen Primary school and I went to Homerton House secondary school.

“We lived in Stokey and we lived in Stamford Hill and although I don’t live in Hackney right now you can’t take Hackney out of the man. It definitely gave me the strength to survive.”

Asif-Kapadia receiving an honorary doctorate at the University of East London in 2011
Asif-Kapadia receiving an honorary doctorate at the University of East London in 2012

The Oscars have once again come under fire for a lack of racial diversity, with Kapadia enjoying the dubious distinction of being one the few non-white nominees.

“I guess all you can do is be there and represent your side and hopefully other people will get the opportunity and come through,” he said.

“I’m just happy to be there as one of the Londoners. I’m just going to go there with our film and not worry too much about that other stuff.”

The 2016 Oscar winners will be announced on 28 February at a ceremony at the Dolby Theatre, Hollywood.

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