After premiering at Sundance film festival in January, Nina Simone documentary ‘What Happened, Miss Simone?’ is due to hit the small screens via Netflix in a bit less than two months from now. Directed by Liz Garbus, it combines footage of Simone’s performances and audio recordings of her songs with interviews from various industry talking heads along with her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly.
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on Feb. 21, 1933 in Tryon, NC, Nina Simone — a classically trained pianist, dive-bar chanteuse and Black-Power icon dubbed the “High Priestess of Soul”, lived a life of brutal honesty, musical genius, and tortured melancholy. She had suffered from breast cancer for several years, before dying in her sleep at the age of 70 on Apr. 21, 2003 at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, near Aix-en-Provence in the South East Of France where she’d settled back in 1993.
“People think that when she went out onstage, she became Nina Simone”, Simone Kelly explains in a clip from the film. “My mother was Nina Simone 24/7. And that’s where it became a problem. Everything fell apart.”
As well as exploring Simone’s dynamism as a performer, the documentary is set to shed light on her mental health issues and struggle with bipolar disorder which she got diagnosed of in the late 80’s. Her passion for politics and association with the African-American civil rights movement being also highlighted in the film.
“I’m thrilled that Netflix has embraced the incredible story of Nina Simone and partnered with RadicalMedia on this film”, says director Liz Garbus, whose past work includes ‘The Farm: Angola, USA’ and ‘Bobby Fischer Against The World’. The filmmaker added that for millions of fans, “Nina feels like a treasured secret. With ‘What Happened, Miss Simone?’, I’m excited to help bring her passion, her music and her story to the world.”
As for Netflix VP of original documentary programming Lisa Nishimura, the movie “paints a brave and provocative picture of Nina Simone — artist, civil-rights activist and heroine — in a film that we’ve loved from Day One and are proud to bring to our viewers around the world.”
The documentary will incorporate previously unreleased audio recordings by Simone spanning three decades, plus rare archival footage and the artist’s most famous songs. ‘What Happened, Miss Simone?’ will draw on more than 100 hours of recordings, telling her story largely in her own words, along with excerpts from her diaries and letters as well as interviews with Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, friends and collaborators.