Documentary Film Review,  Film Festivals,  Film Reviews

Review: What Happened, Miss Simone?

nina simone poster

One of the hot documentary tix for Sundance 2015 was for What Happened, Miss Simone? She was African Royalty.  How does royalty still stomp around in the mud and walk with grace?


Classically trained musical genius, chart-topping and Black Power icon, Nina Simone is one of the most influential, beloved, provocative, and least understood artists of our time. On stage, she was known for utterly free, rapturous performances, earning her the epithet “High Priestess of Soul.” But amid the violent, day-to-day fight for civil rights, she struggled to reconcile artistic ambition with her fierce devotion to a movement.

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 a black woman in racist America—and in so doing, reveals a towering figure transcending categorization and her times. The film stays true to Simone’s subjectivity by mining never-before-heard tapes, rare archival footage, and interviews with close friends and family. Charting Simone’s musical inventiveness alongside the arc of her Jim Crow childhood, defining role in the Civil Rights Movement, arrival at Carnegie Hall, self-imposed exile in Liberia, and solitary life in France, this astonishingly intimate yet epic portrait becomes a non-fiction musical—lush tracks and riveting story resonating inextricably.

Like Josephine Baker before her, In 1993, Simone settled in the South of France and continued to tour around the world.  During her career, she received 15 Grammy nominations and the Grammy Hall of Fame Award In 2000.

Two days before her death, she was awarded an honorary diploma from Curtis Institute, the music school that declined to admit her when she was 19 years old.

So to celebrate this brilliant, musical icon – her music was showcased during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival  by various artists led by Erykah Badu and Oscar Winner Common.  Other artists included Nina Simone’s former guitarist, Al Hackman, Andra Day, Aloe Blacc and bassist Kate Davis.  It was truly a night to remember…


All of the artists were stellar and here was the set list…

Erykah Badu – “Feeling Good” “Peaches”

Leon Bridges – “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free”

Kate Davis – “I Loves You Porgy” “Be My Husband” “Stars”

Andra Day –  “Mississippi God Damn”

Al Schackman – “Sea Lion Woman”

Aloe Blacc – “Strange Fruit” “I Put a Spell on You” “Sinnerman”

Common “Misunderstood” “U Black, Maybe”

A Celebration Of Music In Film - 2015 Sundance Film Festival20150125_202345-1



This extraordinary documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? is streaming live on NETFLIX as of June 26th.  It is a joy to watch Simone’s story be told in her own words, voice and complimented by her daughter Lisa Simone Kelly.

It seems given the current state of America and it’s racial relations, that little has changed in 50 years.  Let’s pray, hope and work as hard as we can America to FINALLY move this country forward, so that we are not playing these same tapes 50 years from you.  Let’s hope that 50 years from now when Americans watch this documentary, there are saying “Wow, I can’t believe the world use to be in such pain”.

Check out the trailer and the genius that is Nina Simone…

This is my favorite Nina Simone piece and ironically, her first big hit…I LOVES YOU PORGY

I love, love love movies, watching them and discussing them...thus the birth of The Curvy Film Critic!!! Host/Producer/FilmCritic,Carla Renata is a member of such esteemed organizations as Critics Choice Association (Co-President Documentary Branch), African American Film Critics Association, Online Association of Female Film Critics and Alliance of Women Film Journalists. My op-eds or features have been seen in VARIETY,, Maltin on Movies, The Cherry Picks, IGN Movies, as well as being a frequent Guest Contributor to Fox 11-LA, Good Day LA, ET Live!, Turner Classic Movies, KCRW Press Play with Madeline Brand, The Cherry Picks, The Stream Team (Beond TV) ITV, Fox Soul's The Black Report, The ListTV and more. Catch my reviews on The Curvy Critic with Carla Renata - LIVE!!! Mondays 5pm PST via You Tube or Facebook Live. If you like what you read please shout me out and subscribe to The Curvy Critic on YouTube. You can chat with me across all social media platforms @TheCurvyCritic and as always, thanks for supporting a sista'

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