By Alex Demyanenko / Capital & Main
The first shot of What Happened, Miss Simone? shows a crowd applauding the appearance of a singer. After years of a self-imposed hiatus, Nina Simone walks onstage, and with one hand on a piano, bows. For a full 10 seconds. She then looks up and out at the rapturous audience. But she is not smiling. Her stare is intense. Some will see fear in her eyes. Others will see indifference. Others might even see loathing. Or all of it.
Once Simone sits at the piano and the applause ends, she does nothing for half a minute. The uncomfortable silence is finally broken by her softy saying “Hello” into the mic, only to be greeted by a fan shouting, “Hi. We are ready!” But is Simone? After seeing Liz Garbus’ documentary, an even better question is, “Was she ever?”
Not everyone who is thrust into stardom is ready for it or even desirous of it. There is no doubt that part of Simone loved being famous, but the juxtaposed moods in this opening scene are palpable and unnerving for a reason. The moment is not only a metaphor for Simone’s fascinating journey as the most compelling and provocative diva of her time, but also a harbinger of what is to come for the next 100 minutes, a document of a life full of contradiction that poses almost as many questions as it answers. [Read more…]