Netflix Producing Nina Simone Documentary from Liz Garbus, Set for 2015

Nina Simone

Netflix has teamed with studio RadicalMedia to produce “What Happened, Miss Simone?”, a documentary about the legendary singer and pianist from filmmaker Liz Garbus slated to debut worldwide on the streamer in 2015.

Nina Simone — a classically trained pianist, dive-bar chanteuse and black-power icon dubbed the “High Priestess of Soul” — died in 2003 at 70.

“I’m thrilled that Netflix has embraced the incredible story of Nina Simone and partnered with RadicalMedia on this film,” said Garbus, whose past work includes “The Farm: Angola, USA” and “Bobby Fischer Against the World.” The filmmaker added that for millions of fans, “Nina feels like a treasured secret. With ‘What Happened, Miss Simone?’, I’m excited to help bring her passion, her music and her story to the world.”

The movie “paints a brave and provocative picture of Nina Simone — artist, civil-rights activist and heroine — in a film that we’ve loved from Day One and are proud to bring to our viewers around the world,” said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix VP of original documentary programming.

The docu will incorporate previously unreleased audio recordings by Simone spanning three decades, plus rare archival footage and the artist’s most famous songs. “What Happened, Miss Simone?” will draw on more than 100 hours of recordings, telling her story largely in her own words, along with excerpts from her diaries and letters as well as interviews with Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, friends and collaborators.

As a key part of its originals strategy, Netflix has built up its documentary portfolio over the past year. This summer it acquired exclusive subscription-video rights to Grain Media’s “Virunga,” about threats to Virunga National Park in the eastern Congo. Other docus exclusively on Netflix include “E-Team,” “Mission Blue,” “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” “Print the Legend” and “Brave Miss World.” In its first documentary pickup, Netflix last year secured rights to “The Square,” an Oscar-nominated film about political unrest in Egypt.

Garbus is co-founder of Moxie Firecracker Films and has produced more than 15 films under the banner including “Love, Marilyn,” “There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane” and “Girlhood.” Her first film, “The Farm: Angola, USA,” about Louisiana’s notorious maximum-security prison, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, garnered two Primetime Emmy Awards and was nominated for an Oscar.

“What Happened, Miss Simone?” is produced by Netflix and RadicalMedia in association with Moxie Firecracker. The film is helmed by Liz Garbus and produced by Garbus, Amy Hobby (“Secretary,” “Love, Marilyn”), Justin Wilkes (“Made in America,” “Under African Skies”) and Jayson Jackson (“Bridge & Tunnel” on Broadway). Cinematographer Igor Martinovic (“House of Cards,” “Man on Wire”) shot the film and Joshua L. Pearson (“Made in America,” “Under African Skies”) edited.

Exec producers are Sidney Beaumont (“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”), RadicalMedia’s Jon Kamen (“The Fog of War”), Netflix’s Nishimura (“The Square,” “Virunga”), Adam Del Deo (“The Square,” “Every Little Step”) and Lisa Simone Kelly. “What Happened, Miss Simone?” is produced in cooperation with the Estate of Nina Simone.

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  1. TYRONE TACKETT says:

    Writer forgot to mention Liz Garbus’s seminal work; The Execution of Wanda Jean.

  2. Teresann says:

    I think the Zoe Saldana project is still in the works, but it is not a documentary, and Simone’s daughter was not very pleased with that one (per an interview she gave to the French press in recent months; she had little, if any, input on the one with Saldana).

  3. Real says:

    Another project I am just a breeding machine to them and they don’t finance anything of mine. Human rights abuse.

  4. Peas and Tanks says:

    Whatever happened with the feature film starring Zoe Saldana?

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