Documentary Feature - Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes
Nina Simone had a powerful voice and an incredible talent. This film is the story of her life, helping us to navigate how a piano savant became a jazz singer and then a civil rights activist. We begin to understand her difficult relationships, her troubled marriage, her abusive parenting, all of which seemed to lead to an apparent nervous breakdown that caused her to abandon everything and move to Liberia.
The musical pieces are wonderful and the seething anger that pours out of Simone is palpable. This documentary puts together interviews with people now including her daughter and Attallah Shabbaz (Malcolm X's daughter), and culls through years of archival footage to hear from the artist herself.
I can't tell if I left the film finding Nina Simone to be a sympathetic character, but I did leave with a new appreciation of her life. (Available on Netflix)