A young girl from Jim Crow-era North Carolina dreams about becoming the first black concert pianist, but instead grows up to be iconic jazz/soul singer Nina Simone. Starting in seedy clubs in Atlantic City, Simone went on to play the Newport and Montreux Jazz Festivals, where she was lauded for her distinctive voice and musical style. In the 1960s, Simone’s art became enmeshed with activism, as she embraced the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. But increasingly her inner demons undermined her happiness and success.
Sourcing hours of archival footage, and using Simone’s own handwritten journals, Garbus lets the performer tell her own story in her own words, and lets the power of her music soar. Simone’s daughter Lisa provides personal testimony and speaks candidly about a mother struggling with identity: as a wife, celebrity and black activist. Simone’s evolution to a woman with a strong, political voice is mapped through stunning performances and interviews in this Oscar-nominated illumination of musical genius and personal struggle.