Remembering Nina Simone

Music & Books

Making a film about a legend is never easy, especially when the family of the legend does not endorse the project. Nina Simone‘s biopic is facing a lot of criticism after first trailer was released on Wednesday showing lead actress Zoe Saldana with darkened skin and a fake nose.

“I love Zoe Saldana, we all love Zoe… From Avatar to Colombiana, I’ve seen those movies a few times. But not every project is for everybody. And I know what my mother would think. I just don’t get it…” said  Simone KellyNina Simone‘s daughter in 2012 when the production started.

Simone Kelly is on record as saying she would have preferred to see Emmy award winner Viola Davis in the role, or Beloved actress Kimberly Elise.

“Both of the actresses that I’ve mentioned are women of color, are women with beautiful, luscious lips and wide noses, and who know their craft.”

“I also have no problem introducing someone we’ve never heard of before who can play my mother.”

After the release of the trailer Simone Kelly said to Time magazine “It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture,”  “It’s clear she brought her best to this project, but unfortunately she’s being attacked when she’s not responsible for any of the writing or the lies.”


Last year, Star Trek actress Saldana told InStyle magazine: “I didn’t think I was right for the part, and I know a lot of people will agree, but then again, I don’t think Elizabeth Taylor was right for Cleopatra either… An artist is colourless, genderless…”

We definitely agree with her on that point. The only thing is Nina Simone’s very dark skin was a major element in her story as a singer, as a woman and as an activist. Not considering that for a biopic was a huge mistake.

Outrage over the casting and storyline should be steered towards the film’s director, Cynthia Mort, Simone Kelly said. The daughter has disavowed the movie for at least a decade and said the family was not consulted during its production. Nina focuses on Simone’s personal relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson, played by David Oyelowo. The cinematic version of the story falsely depicts the iconic singer, her family said. It’s about the “the name you know” but “the story you don’t,”according to the biopic’s trailer, which was released Wednesday.

Nina Simone
Nina Simone

“The movie is about a relationship between my mother and Clifton which never took place. They never had an amorous relationship,” Simone Kelly said, adding that Henderson was a gay man. “The project has been tainted from the very beginning. Clearly, it is not the truth about my mother’s life and everyone now knows that. This is not how you want your loved ones remembered.”

Simone Kelly said she’s more at peace with the controversial film after the release of the authorized documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? (Netflix). The film, directed by Liz Garbus, received a 2016 Oscar nomination and accurately depicts the life of the prominent recording artist, according to the family. We saw the documentary  film in Sundance last year and we sincerely recommend it to you.

What do you think about this controversy?

Nina will open on April 22.

Cet article est disponible en: Français

Mar. 7, 2016

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