- 1 hr 30 min
Nina is a biographical drama film released in 2016 that tells the story of the legendary musician and civil rights activist, Nina Simone. The film is directed by Cynthia Mort and stars Zoe SaldaÃ±a in the titular role, with David Oyelowo playing Simone's manager, Clifton Henderson, and Kevin Mambo as Al Schackman, Simone's guitarist.
The film begins in the year 1995 when Simone is living in France, struggling with alcoholism, mental health issues, and financial difficulties. She receives a visit from Henderson, who she hasn't seen in over a decade, and the story then delves into a series of flashbacks that depict Simone's rise to fame, her relationships, personal struggles, and the socio-political events that shaped her music.
Through the flashbacks, we catch glimpses of Simone's early years as a young piano prodigy in North Carolina, her initial struggles with racial discrimination, her move to New York to pursue a career in music, and her transformation into a civil rights activist, using her music as a tool to promote social justice.
The film doesn't shy away from depicting the uglier sides of Simone's life, including her abusive relationships, her struggles with mental health, and her increasing conflicts with the political and artistic establishments. These facets of her life serve to provide a nuanced and complex portrayal of a woman whose legacy goes beyond her music.
Zoe Saldana delivers a stirring performance as Simone, capturing the nuances of her personality, voice, and mannerisms with authenticity and sensitivity. Her singing, while not an exact replica of Simone's voice, is powerful and evocative, and gives new life to Simone's iconic songs.
David Oyelowo's performance as Henderson is equally impressive, providing a counterpoint to Simone's fiery personality with his calm and composed demeanor. His portrayal of the often-complex relationship between the two is subtle and nuanced, never shying away from the conflicts that arose between them.
The film's score, which features many of Simone's classic songs, is a testament to the legacy of this iconic artist. The music, combined with the stunning cinematography, transports the audience to a different era, immersing them in the socio-political context of the time.
Overall, Nina is a powerful biographical drama that sheds light on the life and legacy of an artist whose work continues to resonate with people all over the world. The film is not without its flaws, with some critics arguing that Saldana's casting as Simone is problematic due to her lighter skin tone and non-African American ancestry. However, the film's strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, providing a moving and thought-provoking portrait of one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century.