Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lisa Simone Kelly, Roger Nupie, Al Shackman, George Wein, Stanley Crouch, Dick Gregory, Ilyasah Shabazz, Ambassador Shabazz, Gerrit De Bruin
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Liz Garbus
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 101
Date: 06/24/2015

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Don't Let Her Be Misunderstood

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's interesting to note that, among all the controversy over all the white nominees of the 2016 Oscars, here's a film -- nominated for Best Documentary -- about an African-American singer, and a politically active one at that. In What Happened, Miss Simone?, director Liz Garbus tells the story of Nina Simone, interpreting her as a troubled genius. She started her career at age 4 studying classical piano. But while playing in nightclubs to try to pay the rent, she was told she needed to sing, and out came that unforgettable voice. The movie details her rise to fame with hits like "I Loves You Porgy" and her marriage to former cop Andrew Stroud (good manager, bad husband). She began performing political songs ("Mississippi Goddam") during the Civil Rights Era, unable to conceal her rage and pain. Later, she was treated for what might have been bipolar disorder. Garbus interviews Simon's daughter, niece, and surviving bandmates, and includes tons of great footage of Simone in concert, attempting to explain her particular brand of musical genius, and largely succeeding. The title comes from Maya Angelou, a question that is never answered.

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