What Happened, Miss Simone?

Featured In Issue 210, October 2016

WSR Score4.5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Eagle Rock Entertainment
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Not Rated
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Single Side, Dual Layer (BD-50)
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A, B & C
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Liz Garbus
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DTS HD Lossless 5.1
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What Happened, Miss Simone? is the story of Nina Simone's life and career. Through archival interviews, extensive performance footage, and new interviews with family, friends, and colleagues, it paints a fascinating portrait of this complex and challenging artist. Nina Simone was many things: pianist, singer, songwriter, performer, civil rights campaigner, wife and mother, victim of abuse and black icon. Growing up in the segregated American South, she began to learn piano at age 4, attended Juilliard School of Music in New York, and aspired to a career as a concert pianist. Believing she was denied admission to the Curtis Institute because of her race, she began to play in nightclubs to earn money, and her career as a jazz and blues performer was born. The film follows Nina Simone through the sixties and her intense involvement in the civil rights movement, her decision to relocate to first Africa and then Europe in the early seventies, her emotional difficulties in the eighties, and her later years in France in the nineties. This is a very timely documentary that reveals a performing artist’s advocacy for the black culture. (Gary Reber)

Special features include bonus interviews and a bonus CD of Music From And Inspired By What Happened , Miss Simone?, featuring 15 tracks: “Loves You Porgy”, “Don't Let me Be Misunderstood”, “I Put A Spell On You”, “Strange Fruit”, “Sinnerman”, “Mississippi Goddam”, “Don't Smoke In Bed”, “My Baby Just Cares For Me”, “Lilac Wine”, “Black Is The Color Of My True Love's Hair”, “Night Song”, “Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out”, “Feeling Good”, and “Ne Me Quitte Pas”.

The 1.78:1 1080i AVC picture is, of course, a documentary, and is comprised of various source elements, including old pictures, performance footage, and film footage, all in varying quality. When the footage is good, it is good, but most of the footage is full of artifacts, The aspect ratio is either 1.33:1 or 1.85:1, alternating throughout, It also shifts back and forth from black-and-white to color. Color fidelity varies in quality. The footage of her daughter narrating Nina's life is satisfying. The black-and-white footage is dated and of poor quality. Resolution can be quite good, with respect to certain photos and the more modern color footage. Noise and other artifacts is prevalent throughout, due to the image substance. Overall, though, this is a compelling documentary of a complex and challenging artist. (Gary Reber)

The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 5.1-channel soundtrack varies in quality, with poor-quality monaural, but at times, quite excellent fidelity in a few performances. Narration is of good sound quality throughout. Surround enhancement is excellent and enhances the sense of spatial dimensionality during the best performance footage. The CD quality is generally good to excellent, but limited to 2.0 stereo. As a soundtrack, the quality is perfectly fitting to the documentary image quality. (Gary Reber)