What Happened, Miss Simone?

Director: Liz Garbus
Year Released: 2015
Rating: 2.0

Birth-to-death/PBS-style coverage of the life of the great jazz singer Nina Simone, covering her early years as a piano prodigy, her difficult marriage, her rabid civil rights activism (and demand for a violent revolution) and eventually her exile (to Africa, to Europe) and mental breakdown. Any time you approach a human life like this the filmmaker tends to condense too much and play selective with what's presented - for example, it notes that Nina had emotional trouble and that her husband hit her (and raped her), but it kind of glosses over how extensive Nina's violent behavior actually was (daughter Lisa produced this, and comments how her Mom used to hit her, but it doesn't mention the shooting incidents and vicious altercations with people that have been noted elsewhere). It does showcase her impressive talents - what a voice! - and ends up being a bit of a somber viewing: the lady just wanted to play classical piano.