What Happened, Miss Simone?

An impressive documentary that concentrates on Nina Simone’s personality and politics, both of which were key to her magnificent career as a singer and pianist. It’s full of superb concert footage, with a few car crash moments thrown in, such as the opening sequence showing a clearly troubled Simone on stage in Montreux. The people interviewed for the film were close to the singer, and they give plenty of insight into her life, detailing her activism, the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband (a violent, controlling manager) and the other ups and downs of her recording career and life. The question posed by the title refers to her ‘wilderness’ years, playing little clubs in France and Switzerland, and is answered in a fairly satisfactory way. (***½)