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What Happened Miss Simone Film Review

Updated on February 5, 2019

About the film

Released: 2015

Director: Liz Garbus

Executive Producer: Lisa Simone Kelly

Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes

Genre: Music, Biography, Documentary

Distributed by: Netflix

About the film

Nina Simone is an iconic singer, famous for her singing a range of music including blues, jazz, pop and classical. This documentary film, exclusive to Netflix, is a film documenting her life and career. The film goes behind the scenes and explores Nina's personal life and singing career. She was born in North Carolina and learned to play the piano at around the age of 4 yrs old. Going to Church and playing the piano was a very big part of her early life.

The film begins in 1976 and shows never before seen footage of Nina, and also covers her activist role in the 60's. There are unseen videos and photographs of Nina, and interviews she had given during her career. Throughout the film the people closest to her give personal interviews about Nina, including her daughter, Lisa. They talk about what she like as a person, both to work with and live with. It could be especially difficult at times, due to her being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. They never knew what her mood was going to be like. She clearly loved her daughter, but even their relationship at times could be difficult. The film also covers her physically abusive marriage with her husband/manager, and how this affected both her and the people around her. She also loved her music, and the film gives a unique insight into a legendary artiste. The film also shows the struggles she had with playing the classical music she dearly loved, due to her race.

My Thoughts

Whilst viewing may be difficult in some parts to watch, I found this compelling to watch. I've always loved Nina Simone's music and song. She's got a unique sound to her voice, and she loved singing. It can be uncomfortable to watch at times, with the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband, and also with her suffering with bipolar. But still, I found this documentary highly informative with a varied amount of still pictures and videos of Nina. There are interviews with people that knew her well and her daughter, Lisa, plays a big part in this film. Lisa is, in fact, the executive producer. And when the civil rights movement began, Nina was not afraid to air her views, most certainly in her songs. The film takes you on a journey of self discovery from her childhood right up to her death. We meet the people that was closest and dearest to her, and through her unique singing voice, how she made it to super stardom all over the world. I felt quite sorry for her really. Her husband clearly didn't respect and mistreated her in a way that no woman deserves to be treated. Yet, she has this powerful voice that could please everything when she started to sing.

I think Liz Garbus who directed this did an excellent job at portraying her life through her career and personal life. And with the personal insight from friends and family, you get to see who Nina was as a person. This is a highly informative and interesting film to watch on a national treasure. I would highly recommend this film. As I say, it's on Netflix and I think they had done a brilliant job at creating a documentary on a much loved singer.

Sometimes I sound like gravel and sometimes I sound like coffee and cream.

— Nina Simone

© 2018 Louise Powles


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