What Nina Simone's Family Thinks Of 'Nina' Shows How Complicated This Movie Is
If you know anything about Nina, the new Nina Simone biopic starring Zoe Saldana, you know that Simone's family has been critical of the film and its casting choices. Ever since the movie was announced over five years ago, the late singer's family has been outspoken in their disapproval, especially after Saldana was cast to play Simone in 2012. When that was announced, the dissent only got louder, and the fact that makeup and prosthetics were used to darken Saldana's skin and make her look more like Simone only added fuel to the fire. But while it may seem as though Simone's entire family is condemning the film, the truth, as always, is much more complicated. What Nina Simone's family thinks of Nina shows that while many people related to the singer aren't in favor of the film, the ways in which they have expressed their disapproval varies from the enraged to the constructively critical.
It's tough to pin down exactly what Simone's surviving family thinks of Nina because, unlike some other celebrity families, they don't speak as one unit, with one publicist. For example, the official Twitter account for Simone's estate, @NinaSimoneMusic, responded to a tweet from Saldana in March writing, "please take Nina's name out your mouth. For the rest of your life." But Simone's only child, Lisa Simone Kelly, has said that she did not approve of the tweet, and, in fact, Kelly has had a much more empathetic approach to her criticism of the film. "It's unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture," Kelly said in an interview with Time . "It's clear she brought her best to this project, but unfortunately she's being attacked when she's not responsible for any of the writing or the lies."
Kelly added that she does not approve of the film, though the movie itself has gone through a few different cuts and it's unclear what version of Nina she has seen, if any. Yet Kelly appears to be most upset by the fact that the film is told through the point of view of Clifton Henderson (David Oyelowo), who worked as Simone's manager/companion in the 1990s. Henderson was a major source for the film, and his version of events is likely at odds with that of Kelly and Simone's family. "The project has been tainted from the very beginning. Clearly, it is not the truth about my mother's life," Kelly told Time.
Simone's brother, Sam Waymon, however, seems much more upset about Saldana's casting. In an interview with the Daily News , Waymon accused Saldana of performing in "blackface" to play the singer. "It's an insult, to our people and their struggle. And to all the things that Nina stood for in her music and all the things she stood for in her life," Waymon said. In a separate interview with TMZ, Waymon said that Nina was "raping Nina's legacy."
For Simone's fans, the decision of whether or not to see Nina is tricky. Luckily, they don't have to go far to find a Simone family-approved film. What Happened, Miss Simone? , the Oscar-nominated documentary directed by Liz Garbus, was made with the support of Kelly and Simone's estate, and might just be a less-controversial alternative.
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