"Cuz I'm just a soul whose intentions are good/Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood."
My father would tap his feet and hum the melody while the record played. He spoke of Nina Simone with love in his eyes and joy in his heart. Jazz was my father's favorite genre of music and Nina was the queen in his eyes. As a young child I tried to understand the lyrics that swayed my father so hypnotically, but could only enjoy my father's smile as he sang off-key. "Misunderstood" was first recorded during the height of the civil rights era in 1964. Some would say the song was the anthem of the movement, while others like my father would say it implies Nina's struggles with racial equalities during her career. Either way, she is an interesting and charismatic character, so I can see why my father loved her music. He would be so excited that two films are in production about her life, and I am thrilled as well despite the controversy.
Nina is the first film that, according to Simone's daughter, is an unauthorized version of her life. The director of the film is Cynthia Mort, who purchased the rights of the singer's life from Clifton Henderson, Nina's manager. She hasn't really directed much, according to her IMDb page, but has notable producer credits from television shows like Roseanne and Will & Grace. She helped pen the screenplay Brave One for Warner Bros. studio. Jodi Foster stared in the film and it was reported that she left a 14-year relationship for Mort during the filming. It was at this time Mort looked into doing a bio pic of Nina Simone. The film is currently in post-production and will be released later on this year. It stars Zoe Saldaña as Nina, David Oyelowo as Henderson, and Mike Epps as Richard Pryor.
Nina's ebony skin tone was very important to her self-identity, which is why there was so much uproar when Mort put fair-skinned Zoe Saldaña in the lead role. Simone is known for being unapologetic to the dominant culture about loving her black skin, and often turned the mic to voice opposition to this issue with songs like "Four Women." Mort's decision unearthed the pervasive issue of colorism in Hollywood, which is still a topic of discussion in mainstream news. Luckily, Nina's daughter did not sit by the sidelines in defeat. Radical Media just announced that it will be developing and producing a documentary in partnership with Simone's estate and daughter. According to the press release, the documentary will include highlights of never-before-seen archival footage showing her rise to becoming the "high priestess of soul." Simone, Nina's daughter, stated, "I've been waiting for many years to bring the true and complete story of my mom's life to the screen." This statement brought joy to my heart because when I sway to the music with my eyes closed, I can see my father's smile. Thank you, Nina!
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