The movie is a biography of jazz, blues, R&B singer and classical pianist Nina Simone who was born in South Carolina in 1933. The film was released in April 2016.
Simone, whose birth name was Eunice Waymon, wanted to become a concert pianist as a child and enrolled to Julliard School of Music. She then applied for a scholarship to Curtis Institute of Music in Philapelphia with a very good performance during her auditions but was declined for being an African American. During the 50’s she started taking private piano lessons from Vladimir Sokoloffm, a tutor at Curtis Institute of Music, and worked as a pianist and a singer at bars to pay for her lessons. Because she wanted to keep her situation a secret from her family, she took the stage name Nina Simone during those times. As well as being a good pianist and a singer, she was a very good arranger as well. She recorded her debut album in 1957 and released in 1958 when she was 25.
She had two unsuccesful marriages and had a daughter from her first marriage. She was a civil rights activist and frequently gave messages through her music, which caught the attention of audiences from both sides of the movement. She also attended many protests and meetings to give speeches.
“Nina” is the first cinema movie of director Cynthia Mort. The movie concentrates on Simone’s carreer after the 70’s. After leaving America and living in Switzerland and Holland she finally settles in France during the begining of 90’s. The script tells us the story of her relationship with Clifton Henderson who was first her assistant then her manager. Their relationship revolves around her alcohol addiction and psychological problems, the restrictions her sensitivity brings to her life, tantrums and most importantly the feeling of loneliness. Actress Zoe Saldana, who plays Nina in the movie, performed all songs on the movie. Although she doesn’t have the most touching voice on earth, she perfectly mimics Simone and perfectly delivers the state of mind she was in during those days. I think Nina Simone is a character. Her voice, the way she plays the piano, her lyrics, her activism, the way she moves, the way she dresses: Everything about her forces you to have a feeling about them. You may like her, or you may not. But she’s a person who’ll leave a mark on you. I think this eventually comes with its own weight on you, a price Nina Simone had to pay. The toughest people are actually the most fragile ones, which I think is the case with Simone.
There are a lot of material to read, watch and listen to on Nina Simone. One of them is the French documentary made in 1992, “Nina Simone: La légende” and the other one is “What Happened, Miss Simone?” which was released in 2015. If you’re a Nina Simone fan, I think it’s best to watch the two documentaries that have live recorded footage and then the movie “Nina” as a marathon. Hope you enjoy the movie.