What Happened, Miss Simone?, a Netflix original documentary on music icon Nina Simone directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus, premiered last night at the world famous Apollo Theater. (Netflix makes the film available Friday, June 26, and releases it theatrically Wednesday, June 24 in New York and Friday, June 26 in Los Angeles.) Following the screening, both Lauryn Hill and Jazmine Sullivan performed a four-song set of Nina Simone classics including “Ne Me Quitte Pas” and “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.”
Classically trained pianist, dive-bar chanteuse, Black power icon and legendary recording artist Nina Simone lived a life of brutal honesty, musical genius and tortured melancholy. In What Happened, Miss Simone?, director Garbus interweaves never-before-heard recordings and rare archival footage together with Nina’s most memorable songs to create an unforgettable portrait of one of the least understood, yet most beloved, artists of our time.
The film uses recently unearthed audio tapes, recorded over the course of three decades, of Nina telling her life story to various interviewers and would-be biographers. From over 100 hours of these recordings, What Happened, Miss Simone? weaves together Simone’s narrative, told largely in her own words. Rare concert footage and archival interviews (along with diaries, letters, interviews with Nina’s daughter Lisa Simone Kelly, friends and collaborators, along with other exclusive materials) make this the most authentic, personal and unflinching telling of the extraordinary life of one of the 20th century’s greatest recording artists.