2016 Oscars Challenge: [4] “What Happened, Miss Simone?” – Best Documentary Feature

WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?
Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes



Nina Simone (born Eunice Kathleen Waymon) was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist who worked in a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop (Wikipedia). As is the case with many great artists, they are often the most troubled and Nina was definitely that. Dealing with depression and un-diagnosed bipolar disorder, Nina took to the stage with a persona that many thought only reached to the edge of the stage, but as described by her daughter, her ex-husband, and her best friends, that personality was just as volatile off the stage as it was sometimes on. Although the documentary, at times, does not paint the best picture of the singer and her sorted past, it does feel tell-all in not holding back any punches. But it also shows her passion and explains her history and offers suggestions of why she was the way that she was. Before seeing the documentary I had no idea who Nina Simone was, but afterwards, I have a strong grasp of her influence in the civil rights movement and her as a person in the spotlight. And it’s definitely not something or someone I’ll soon be forgetting about.

What’s its competition? Music documentaries are all the rage with the Academy as of late, with 2012 and 2013 being back-to-back years of winning music documentaries with “Searching For Sugar Man” and “20 Feet From Stardom.” This year will likely go to a music documentary as well, whether it be this one or the fan and critic’s favorite, “Amy.” Both chronicle a troubled musician and the path that led to their lifestyle as well as the fallout. But apparently “Amy” is much more entertaining. Also, the idea that a film available on Netflix could potentially reach more audiences is definitely a case to be made, but at the same time, with zero support of “Beasts Of No Nation,” another Netflix release, one has to wonder how much of a case there is. Many are placing “What Happened, Miss Simone fairly low on their lists, but I’m saying, keep an eye on it, because if anything has a chance of upsetting, it would be this one.

Previous nominations? These are the first Academy Award nominations for Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes. This is the second Academy Award nomination for Liz Garbus. She was previously nominated for:

  • THE FARM: ANGOLA, U.S.A. (1998)
    Nominee, Documentary (Feature)

“What Happened, Miss Simone” (2015) Trailer:


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// Produced by Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes //Directed by Liz Garbus //
// Dated Viewed: Saturday, January 16th, 2016 // NETFLIX STREAMING //  38 films – 44 days //

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