1. What Happened, Miss Simone? [dir. Liz Garbus]
What Happened, Miss Simone? opened the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and the film was a huge focus throughout the festival, featuring a performance after the opening showing by John Legend, and a later concert of Nina Simone‘s music with artists including Erykah Badu, Common and Aloe Blacc. The documentary itself was met with packed houses and teary eyes, as everyone talked about how moving and beautiful it was. Featuring amazing never-before-seen archival footage and interviews with important people in Nina’s life, especially with Al Schackman (Nina’s musical director) and Lisa Simone Kelly (Nina’s daughter), the film documents the evolution of her life and music as it moves through many chapters. The title comes from a Maya Angelou poem, and in a general sense it refers to the psychological and physical challenges that Nina endured during the course of her life and the point at which her career seemed to take a more difficult turn. The film underlines Nina’s deep commitment to the civil rights movement, and how her identity and spirit were affected by its rise and fall. It also emphasizes her love of classical piano and how deeply hurt she was her whole life by the racial barriers that kept her from classical music success. All in all this is a vital documentary that everyone must see–an extremely moving portrait of Nina Simone’s life and music.
Look out for a longer and more in-depth feature in the coming weeks on the Nina Simone celebration concert, the documentary, and reflections on Nina’s life in the context of the modern day #BlackLivesMatter movement. –Samora Pinderhughes