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What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

This Netflix-produced bio-documentary about the legendary Nina Simone (1933–2003) opened the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and was later short-listed for a 2016 Oscar for Best Documentary.  The director Liz Garbus does many things well in this film, the best of which is simply to let us linger, watch, and listen to the legendary blues and jazz artist display her music genius and free spirit.  The film moves through the several phases of Simone's life.  After starting to play the piano in church at the age of four, and until she was about twenty, Simone was a Julliard-trained phenom who intended to be the first black female classical pianist in America.   Then followed her jazz career and stormy marriage to her husband and manager Andrew Stroud.  During the civil rights movement she joined the radical, violent fringe.  Later still, residential stints in Africa and Europe were followed by a resurrected career back in the States.  Simone herself narrates much of the film, supplemented by her daughter, husband, friends, and music critics.  The title of the film comes from a quotation by Maya Angelou.

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