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Fri Mar 4, 2016, 12:03 PM

Nina Simone: Poetic Hot Lava In Open Letter

A new film directed by a White woman who claims to be Nina Simone’s number one fan aims to achieve what America couldn’t achieve while Nina was alive - the total erasure of the Empress of Activist-Cool from her own Black image - an image so subversive and counter culture in its dark Negroidness that the challenge of living it imbued Nina with a justifiably rebellious and outspoken symphony of under-dog passions; all of it expressed through grandly operatic musical masterpieces, scornfully bold and unrepentant public truth-telling, beautifully Afro-sculptural body posturing, and most of all, Nina’s defiant love for herself and for her people’s political well-being. Nina Simone was no ordinary jazz stylist, woman or public figure. Everything about her was intelligence married to fire. She was charismatic, eccentric and Queenly. And above all else-she was the moving embodiment of raw cultured Blackness.

And because of that inability to see us, the image chosen to represent Nina becomes a mocking dehumanization, an erasure of Nina’s swarthy and robust Black victory. Everything Nina stood for while surviving in that Black body becomes whitened and desensitized by the cloying signature of dishonesty. But of course, White people are making this film for White people anyway.

Black American women are tired of the colorist Hollywood caste system. They love Nina Simone religiously. They know that Nina’s daughter Simone was not asked to be a consultant or even contacted to give her blessing. Imagine if they hadn’t rendered Nina invisible in her own story. With Viola Davis, Lauryn Hill or Yolanda Ross as Nina, it would have become a classic.
http://www.ninasimone.com/2012/11/kola-boof-spits-poetic-hot-lava-in-open-letter-to-cynthia-mort/

&ebc=ANyPxKoDc-jky3lE2O5vKrHRzInLr6prmOJhxofds77Q1qhARoz-OyXyVLgm0mhadpN74MkXX2Kv

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Reply Nina Simone: Poetic Hot Lava In Open Letter (Original post)
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 OP
Digital Puppy Mar 2016 #1
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #2
Digital Puppy Mar 2016 #3
kwassa Mar 2016 #4
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #5
ismnotwasm Mar 2016 #6
Digital Puppy Mar 2016 #7
ismnotwasm Mar 2016 #9
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #10
ismnotwasm Mar 2016 #14
JustAnotherGen Mar 2016 #16
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #17
Digital Puppy Mar 2016 #8
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #11
Digital Puppy Mar 2016 #12
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #13
ismnotwasm Mar 2016 #15
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #18
kwassa Mar 2016 #19
Digital Puppy Mar 2016 #20
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #21
Digital Puppy Mar 2016 #23
JustAnotherGen Mar 2016 #24
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #25
JI7 Mar 2016 #26
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #27
JI7 Mar 2016 #22
Scootaloo Mar 2016 #28
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #29

Response to Kind of Blue (Original post)

Fri Mar 4, 2016, 01:27 PM

1. Glad you posted this...

I've been watching this drama unfold on Black-Twitter for the past few months and more recently, on mainstream Hollywood media.

I have mixed feelings since Nina's story is important for today's audience and I want to see this movie. My problem is that for Zoe (who I love) to have to wear heavy makeup and prosthetics to make the character "believable" is a problem. You are now admitting that Nina's physical appearance is so vitally important that you have to have an actress look like the real-life person. If that is the case, why not cast an actress who is physically similar? If you are saying the overall story is more important than the actress' physical appearance, why go through all of the effort to changing the way Zoe looks??

I can certainly understand why Nina Simon's folk are upset with the whole thing. It's my hope that people will understand and study Nina's story and why she is so highly regarded. Will I go see the movie? Probably. I think her story is that important.

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Response to Digital Puppy (Reply #1)

Fri Mar 4, 2016, 02:15 PM

2. You nailed every bit of it, DigitalPuppy.

I won't be seeing the movie. As important as Ms. Simone's story should be told, I just can't suspend my disbelief. Besides the entertainment biopic, the clip above is from the documentary "Nina Simone -The Legend and there is an acclaimed Netflix documentary, "What Happened Miss Simone" to watch too.

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #2)

Fri Mar 4, 2016, 03:20 PM

3. I apologize...I didn't read/absorb all of your post

I should have realized that the text was from Kola Boof. I've known Kola for a few years now and she is a lighting rod - and while I agree with her choice of Viola Davis to play Simone, I'm not going to place the entirety of blame on Zoe. Saldana seems like she wants to spread her wings and try and represent Simone's character as best as she can. But this really seems like a stretch ... I really do wonder whose idea it was for her to do the makeup like this!

KOB- Thanks for pointing out the two documentaries. I had seen clips, but I really didn't know they were available. Thank you!

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Response to Digital Puppy (Reply #3)

Fri Mar 4, 2016, 04:09 PM

4. Viola Davis would be the perfect choice.

Not only physically, but she also has the acting chops. I don't think Saldana has the intensity necessary.

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Response to Digital Puppy (Reply #3)

Fri Mar 4, 2016, 05:20 PM

5. Oh, no apology necessary at all!


I really don't know Kola Boof but noticed the article is a few years old. I'm going to have find more articles by Boof to understand about the lightning rod. Actually, I thought Boof was putting the blame squarely on the filmmaker more than on Saldana, who I read is "Oscar hunting," and this role is it for her. So I'm sure she'll do her best. Like, you said why put on prothestics if the story is that important. And my husband said, Thank God they didn't pick Reese Witherspoon

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Response to Kind of Blue (Original post)

Fri Mar 4, 2016, 07:43 PM

6. Do you think this is an example of whiteness as beauty standard?

The "Barbie" look, with petite features, and a veneer of color? (All additions aside)Instead of the strong, compelling beauty of Afro-centric features?

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #6)

Fri Mar 4, 2016, 09:27 PM

7. I sure think that that is an issue in Hollywood, but here, it makes little sense...

In this movie Zoe clearly plays a strong character (in many different ways) that has physical features that are the basis of her world outlook. Because she is Black, people were putting her in a box w.r.t. her talent...because she felt that the world wanted to her be in a box, she needed to express herself and talk about her strong Afro-centric features, and pro-Black radicalism in love for self and community.

To me (and others) that is her central story. So why not find an actress who fits that mold. We aren't talking about characters from Harry Potter or Fantastic Four where race and physical features are not central to the story...Nina Simone is Nina Simone because of her psychical appearance.

If the filmmakers were so worried about casting the "right kind of Black", then they really shouldn't have made the film...Like Boof wrote, Spike Lee would have done a masterful job.

(The more and more I write about this, the more I think I might skip it...)

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Response to Digital Puppy (Reply #7)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 01:56 AM

9. Well said!

I agree.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #6)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 03:01 AM

10. Yes, for sure, Ismnotwasm and DP, nailed it again.

I remember a PBS broadcast on minstrels and how by the time white performers in blackface cashed in, black performers could not appear as themselves to work. They had to don the caricature of white performers by putting on outrageous blackface on their black face. I know there's a correlation there somewhere in this weirdness of a movie It just feels like a minstrel show, with Saldana looking more like a CGI creation of a black woman, let alone Ms. Simone.

The filmmaker took away all that compelled Ms. Simone as if it doesn't matter. I think Ms. Simone's boldness and Africoid features molded to Saldana's face is less confrontational and will be more acceptable to white audiences. Do we turn the other cheek or do we lash back as in the Martin vs Malcolm debate? Ms. Simone lashed back with her music. If she had just set out to be the first black female classical pianist there would not be much controversy. But given her insistence on That Blackness and what she went through in life, I hope this movie flops big time.


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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #10)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 01:25 PM

14. I've been reading about it and I won't be seeing it either

It makes me sad and angry. Zoe Salanda is a fine actress, but this is miscasting to the point of insult and is very disturbing.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #14)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 02:09 PM

16. I have no intention of seeing it either

I'm not familiar with her music though I know the name - well one . . . Mississippi God Damn. I think I will look up the documentary that was up for award at the Oscars instead.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #14)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 03:29 PM

17. I can't suppress my glee

knowing you'll skip it.

Ms. Simone deserved much better.

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Response to Kind of Blue (Original post)

Fri Mar 4, 2016, 09:32 PM

8. Here is the movie's trailer:

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Response to Kind of Blue (Original post)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 03:08 AM

11. I can't resist posting this amazing performance of Ms. Simone's "Four Women"

featuring Simone, Dianne Reeves, Lizz Wright, Angélique Kidjo

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #11)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 04:38 AM

12. Brilliant!!!!

Absolutely, BRILLIANT!!



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Response to Digital Puppy (Reply #12)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 08:12 AM

13. I'm so glad you enjoyed that!

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #11)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 01:32 PM

15. Oh my God.

Simply incredible

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #15)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 03:30 PM

18. Yes, Indeed!

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #11)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 04:30 PM

19. I'm confused. Who is Simone?

Not Nina Simone.

edit to add: I found out, she is Lisa Simone Kelly, daughter of Nina.

She said this in Time magazine about the movie:
Actress Zoe Saldana doesn’t deserve the sharp backlash she has received for her portrayal of legendary singer Nina Simone, the daughter of the late jazz great said Thursday.

Lisa Simone Kelly, the singer’s only child, told TIME she was unaware that the verified Twitter account representing her mother’s estate had slammed the actress after she tweeted a quote attributed to Simone. “Please take Nina’s name out your mouth. For the rest of your life,” the tweet directed to Saldana said.

It’s unclear who runs the late singer’s Twitter account. Her family said they had hired family friend Aaron Overfield to manage the official website and Facebook page years ago. Overfield did not return requests for comment.

The star — who dons dark makeup to play the late jazz and blues singer in the upcoming biopic, Nina — has come under fire since being cast for the role over a black actress with darker skin that would more closely resemble Simone’s. But most of the criticism is misdirected, Simone’s daughter told TIME in a rare interview Thursday. “It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture,” said Simone Kelly, 53, who is also an actress and singer. “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.”

Outrage over the casting and storyline should be steered towards the film’s director, Cynthia Mort, Simone Kelly said. The daughter has disavowed the movie for at least a decade and said the family was not consulted during its production. Nina focuses on Simone’s personal relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson, played by David Oyelowo. The cinematic version of the story falsely depicts the iconic singer, her family said. It’s about the “the name you know” but “the story you don’t,” according to the biopic’s trailer, which was released Wednesday.

“The movie is about a relationship between my mother and Clifton which never took place. They never had an amorous relationship,” Simone Kelly said, adding that Henderson was a gay man. “The project has been tainted from the very beginning. Clearly, it is not the truth about my mother’s life and everyone now knows that. This is not how you want your loved ones remembered.”



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Response to kwassa (Reply #19)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 05:14 PM

20. Very interesting! n/t

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Response to kwassa (Reply #19)

Sat Mar 5, 2016, 05:15 PM

21. Yes! She was part of the wonderful

Netflix documentary "What Happened, Miss Simone?" I particularly love this rendition of "Four Women" because Ms. Kelly is part of the group!

Yeah, I think the backlash over Saldana is because of some statements that she had to walk back about not recognizing her black heritage or something like that. So people thought/think casting her was another insult.

Thanks for posting this article! about the other blatant falsehood about her mom's relationship with Henderson. WTF?

Here's Ms. Kelly in a promo for the Netflix movie.

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #21)

Sun Mar 6, 2016, 03:41 AM

23. Her *real* story def. needs to be told!

An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when everyday is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist.

- The High Priestess of Soul

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #21)

Mon Mar 7, 2016, 10:00 AM

24. We watched this yesterday afternoon

First - a massive retraction.

I DO know her music I just didn't know her name associated to it.

Second - I'm now fully NOT on board with Zoe Saldana playing this woman - who experience racism from the dominant culture and colorism from within to a point where it hurt her soul.

Third - can a light weight like Saldana even handle the material?


Well I guess so - since what I saw in this documentary and what I know of the movie plot are two entirely different stories.


Someone needs to do a REAL biopic and not this fan fiction about shit that didn't happen.

Like - Address her mental illness. Like - address the spousal abuse. Like- address how these things might have impacted her relationship with her daughter. Like - address her eccentrism.

There's so much that COULD have been done that wasn't and what IS being done -

They done did it wrong.

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Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #24)

Mon Mar 7, 2016, 06:28 PM

25. There's so much that COULD have been done that wasn't

"and what IS being done -
They done did it wrong."


The conscious to erase Ms. Simone, I don't understand what the filmmaker was thinking at all. I mean Ms. Simone is relatively unknown to younger generations, on the periphery of many, and fiercely loved by many, many older people who the filmmaker didn't consider. I would venture perhaps that's why the filmaker thought she could take so many unwarranted license. She clearly underestimated the impact of how well known Ms. Simone is to AAs worldwide.

The other thing is maybe the filmmaker thought, Saldana = Avatar = Aliens. And so makes sense to her that the use of prosthetics and skin coloring is appropriate to depict such an alien person. Saldana did such an excellent job in Avatar so she obviously can handle it


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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #25)

Mon Mar 7, 2016, 06:37 PM

26. it looks like she first had a story idea and then decided to do it based

On Simone even though it's not the real story.

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Response to JI7 (Reply #26)

Mon Mar 7, 2016, 06:48 PM

27. LOL!

She should have just given the film another title

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Response to kwassa (Reply #19)

Sun Mar 6, 2016, 02:57 AM

22. that could have been one of the more interesting things about the movie

to actually show what it was to be a black woman, a gay man etc in those days.

if you are going to take away all this just make up some fictional story and characters and make something else.

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Response to Kind of Blue (Original post)

Mon Mar 7, 2016, 09:42 PM

28. Was rather surprised to hear about this

 

First, I love me some Nina Simone. Second, I had no idea a film was coming out, until I read about it on Abagond. He brings up the same issues as this piece, panning the actress choice and the made-up love story that it centers around.

I'll be passing on the film. Better to hear Nina speak in her own voice, innit?

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #28)

Tue Mar 8, 2016, 11:32 AM

29. Yes, I'd listen to Nina in her own

voice any day. Thanks for full version of Sinnerman. Had me up and running. Thanks!

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