Amy Winehouse's family attends biopic premiere with yellow hostage pins: 'We want our people back'

In a special interview, Mitch Winehouse tells Ynet about their decision to raise awareness to the Israeli hostages and the flooding emotions the new film made him feel
Shirit Gal Kedar, London|
'Back to Black' trailer
(Video: Tulip Entertainment)

Last week, 13 years after her premature death, the feature film Back to Black: The Story Behind Amy Winehouse (named after the singer’s second and final album) was released, tracing the British Jewish star’s short and particularly turbulent life. A few days earlier, a festive premiere for the film was held in London.
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אלכס, מיטש וג'יין וויינהאוס עם קלייר הדוואט בפרימיירת הסרט Back to Black
אלכס, מיטש וג'יין וויינהאוס עם קלייר הדוואט בפרימיירת הסרט Back to Black
The Winehouse family at the new film's premiere
(Photo: Courtesy)
An Israeli and Jewish eye couldn’t miss members of the late singer's family among the attendees - her father, Mitch, her mother, Janis, her older brother, Alex, and his partner, Clare. In photos from the premiere, Mitch Winehouse and the couple all wore yellow ribbon lapel pins as a mark to raise awareness for the Israeli hostages still held captive in Gaza.
“Clare Alex's girlfriend asked if we would wear the hostage badges. And we said of course you will. You know, we're Jews. We want our people back. So yeah, we were proud to wear them for solidarity and to raise awareness. But nobody asked what they were for,” Winehouse’s father told Ynet in a special interview.
“I don't think people did know what it was. Nobody asked me about it. Which just shows you the different indifference that people have,” he added.
He adds that as a Jew, he’s worried about the happenings in Israel and the way the country is seen around the world. “We feel very much that Israel is the Western world's frontline of defense, and we can’t tell why the West doesn’t understand this,” he said. “I do understand why America and the United Nations are criticizing Israel. They're doing it for political reasons. I have no doubt Israel needs to support itself, Israel is fighting for its life every day.”
“And of course, the Americans condemned the bombing of the aid workers in Gaza. It was a terrible mistake. It should never have happened. But what about what happened in Afghanistan with America? They bombed wedding parties. David Cameron, when he was prime minister many civilians in Serbia, in Kosovo, were impacted when we’re walking about 2009-2010. They forget all of these things. It's hypocrisy, but of course, you don't see any of that. When America and Europe do it’s called an ‘accident’ and when Israel does it's a ‘crime against humanity,’” he said.
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אלכס וויינהאוס ובת זוגו, קלייר הדוואט בפרימיירת הסרט Back to Black
אלכס וויינהאוס ובת זוגו, קלייר הדוואט בפרימיירת הסרט Back to Black
Alex Winehouse and his partner Clare at the premiere
(Photo: Courtesy)
As a Jew do you feel the rise in antisemitism? Have you ever experienced anything? “You’re an English Jew,” he answered. “You're experiencing the same things that we're seeing. You look on the news every night. You look at the demonstrations, the police are ineffective, basically empowering these people to carry on doing what they're doing.”
“When we know that everybody in this country including a vast majority of Muslim people want to live in peace. They want to go to work. They want to have dinner and talk to their neighbors who are Jewish. We know there’s a minority of people that are very vocal and they're very aggressive. maybe the Jews should go out and scream and shout, but we don't do that. We'd rather have a cup of tea and a bit of cake.”
What troubles you most about this situation? "Terror. All of the recent terrorist attacks that have happened in this country going back to 2007 were from home, most of them are British, and it’s like that in America and the forts of the world as well.”
“What has really upset me is the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Israel. I follow new websites in the country and saw there were about seven or eight terror attacks in the last two weeks. They even found a van with police uniforms lots of ammunition and automatic weapons that belonged to terrorists who were on a mission to kill Jews and Israelis. Did you read about it on the BBC or on Sky? No, not a word.”
Amy Winehouse was a well-known and dominant figure in the global music scene in general, and the British scene in particular, and will always be remembered as the shy singer who won five Grammy Awards in one evening and didn't even attend the ceremony.
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הפסל של איימי וויינהאוס
הפסל של איימי וויינהאוס
Amy Winehouse's statue in Camden
(Photo: AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
The singer began her career in small gigs at various pubs in Camden, lived in the neighborhood until her death, and could often be seen basking in the sun in Primrose Hill Park, the iconic hill close to her home.
After her death, a statue of the singer was established in Camden Market which features the Star of David necklace she used to wear. Two months ago, reports said the Star of David symbol on the statue was covered with a sticker of a Palestinian flag.
“I wasn't too concerned about it,” Winehouse’s father said. “It was probably one of our fans. It wasn't a nice thing to do, but they didn't deface it. What upset me was my grandson who's nine called me and asked me if I was okay. I said, ‘Yeah, I'm okay.’ He said, ‘I'm very upset about Auntie Amy. I've been crying all day because they did something horrible to her statue.’ And I told him they took the sticker off immediately, and they didn't throw paint over it or anything like that. But he was upset and that made me upset.”
Amy Winehouse’s story is one of love, ambition, and addiction. It’s also one of a unique talent that was never seen before. The movie arriving over a decade after her death divided her fanbase who couldn’t decide whether it was done to honor or take advantage of her.
Others argued that her family’s fingerprints were seen in the film, seeing as it points to alcoholism as the cause of her death rather than her father who was always seen as a villainous figure in the background. The movie also steers clear of the ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil, who was addicted to drugs.
Winehouse senior, however, shared he told the film’s producers he had no interest in being creatively involved in the film.
“I deliberately didn’t want to do it because if I was involved in the film, then people would say I made the film to make myself look good, and I didn't want to do that,” he shared. “So we spoke it before with the producers I asked them everything I needed to know about what angle they were coming from if they were going to do a similar thing to what they did in 2015 with the Asif Kapadia film.
“I wouldn’t have given the permission to go ahead. They explained to me that they wanted to show the film from Amy's point of view, and really focus about the people that she loved most in her life, which were her mother, father and Blake. There's no there's no getting away from it. She loved Blake, and I thought about it, and I said okay, go ahead.”
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איימי ויינהאוס ובלייק פילדר-סיביל ב-2007
איימי ויינהאוס ובלייק פילדר-סיביל ב-2007
Blake Fielder-Civil and Amy Winehouse in 2007
(Photo: Getty Images for MTV)
How else were you involved in the film after giving the production your blessing? “I mainly sat with them and told them funny stories, we were laughing, we were crying, and I told them about how I was during that period, and how Amy was when she was a little baby and a child. Very lovely stories. Then I let them just get on with it.”
“It was emotional,” he added. “It’s a film about my daughter who's passed away. I'd be excited to go and see her new show, but I can’t cause she’s not here. This movie brings it home to me that she's not here with us anymore. In Spirit she's here, and in music, but not physically. It’s heartbreaking for me.”
When the first photos from the film set were released last summer, revealing Marisa Abela and Eddie Marsan as Amy and Mitch Winehouse, criticisms sounded soon after. When it became known that Abela would also sing in the film herself, people rushed to express their opinions, criticizing the casting and musical choices.
“Everyone was saying she's terrible,” Winehouse told Ynet. “She can't look like her, she can’t sing like her. Anybody with something negative to say could do so. Now that the film is out everybody is eating in their words. Marisa is magnificent, and eye-catcher and she's Jewish as well, Not that that makes any difference.”
“And Eddie as me is magnificent, Jack O'Connell has been a very good Blake. They did a fantastic job. There's lots of other things that I wish they could have put in the film, but it’s only two hours long,” he added.
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מתוך "Back to Black: סיפורה של איימי ויינהאוס"
מתוך "Back to Black: סיפורה של איימי ויינהאוס"
From 'Back to Black'
(Photo: Tulip Entertainment)
Do you feel your Jewish background was addressed in the film? “You know, funny you should ask, I was just saying it to my wife. Amy's got the star David throughout the movie, the same one on the statute. And I thought that was wonderful. And there was only a little bit about us singing a Jewish song over Friday dinner. But we're not a religious family so they're not going to make a film about me going to synagogue every week.”
Rumors say Jewish actor Aharon Taylor-Jonson, the husband of the film’s director, is set to play James Bond which has drawn criticism. What do you think about that? “Bond is iconic. When Daniel Craig was announced for the role they hated him not because he was Jewish, they said ‘He's too ugly. He’s too blonde, He's this he's that,’ and he did great. And Aaron is so handsome, and a great actor and a lovely guy, he’ll make a great James Bond.”
Would you like to say anything to Israeli readers? “We run the Amy Winehouse Foundation. We work to send money and help people in Israel. We want to help orphans that have been affected by the attack. We also want to help Palestinian kids. It's something that we feel very, very strongly about, but we know that that's very difficult because Hamas gets the money. You might think that's being stupid and naive, but humanity is something that characterizes the Jewish people the most. We’re trying to talk to people that can get money into the right areas.”
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