What Happend, Miss Simone?

This fully authorized documentary examines the life of legend Nina Simone, a classically trained musical genius, chart-topping chanteuse, Black Power icon and, to my complete surprise, a disempowered wife and mother. Though she was known for her utterly free, rapturous performances, earning her the epithet “High Priestess of Soul,” in her home she was dominated by her sexist husband and manager. Incorporating concert footage, never-before-heard tapes, rare archival material and interviews with family and friends over three decades, this astonishingly intimate yet epic portrait charts Simone’s musical inventiveness alongside the arc of her childhood in segregated America, her defining role in the Civil Rights Movement, her arrival at Carnegie Hall, the escalating domestic violence she experienced, her self-imposed exile in Liberia, her solitary life in France and her unexpected comeback. Director Liz Garbus sensitively explores the constant state of opposition that trapped and tortured Simone—as a classical pianist pigeonholed in jazz, as a professional boxed in by family life, as an artist colonized by her husband and manager, as a black woman in racist America—and in so doing reveals a towering figure transcending categorization and her times.

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