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What Happened, Miss Simone? [DVD]
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Liz Garbus directs this documentary examining the life and music of legendary American singer Nina Simone. Considered by peers to be one of the most influential vocalists of her time, Simone entertained audiences across America with her ability to sample a variety of musical styles including jazz, gospel and blues. Also a renowned civil rights activist, Simone recorded a number of protest songs throughout her long career. Featuring rare live performance footage and archive interviews, the film also includes insight from the likes of Stanley Crouch and Dick Gregory.
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The film examines her relationship with her husband, who became her manager and her child, executive producer of the film Lisa Simone Kelly who both frequently appear on camera. However what makes this documentary stand out aren't just the usual talking heads moving the story on, it's the access to Simone's own handwritten diaries in which she lays bare her feelings - nothing is spared. Rare, previously unseen footage including home movies add background, but the interviews really add a dimension as you hear the tale in Nina's own voice. A well put together film, always watchable, unavoidably skimming over the move to Africa then Europe as she ran away from her relationship and fame, with her increasing political militancy causing difficulties getting bookings particularly on television.