Even bad publicity is good publicity, right???
There has been A LOT of talk about Cynthia Mort’s and Zoe Saldana’s new movie about the life of legendary jazz/soul singer Nina Simone. There are loud arguments coming from both sides, those that love Zoe and those that feel that she is the wrong choice (see, “too light-skinned”) of actress to play Ms. Simone (a proud dark-skinned sister).
It appears that the grumbling is about to get a lot louder as Aaron Overfield (content manager of Nina Simone’s website) has written a long, yet powerful letter addressing his issues with not only Zoe and her skin color (or lack thereof), but most notably the film’s director, Cynthia Mort.
Pretty strong stuff written here, and we will admit, the letter is VERY long, but if you are a Nina fan we suggest you take a minute to read it.
Do you argee or disagree that this movie should be protested, boycotted, and shut-down due to misrepresentation of Ms. Simone’s life??
Read the first section below, and the rest of the letter on the following pages.
I’m writing this letter to anyone who cares about Nina Simone: her legacy, her artistry, her spirit, her genius, her music, her activism, everything. If you care at all about Nina Simone — even if you’ve only heard a few of her songs — then this letter is for you. If you’re here reading this, it’s for you.
I won’t waste time writing to Cynthia Mort or Zoe Saldana and releasing the words out into the public sphere for the chance they might cross paths, because even if that were the case the words would mean nothing to them. What they are creating proves those words would mean nothing, so why waste my breath (or finger taps)? They will not listen.
The issues surrounding this unauthorized film depicting Nina Simone, which we might as well call a biopic since they are naming the thing Nina, are complex, multilayered, and multifaceted. The discussions of the issues are as complex as they are controversial; however, they are important conversations to have and keep having. The most frustrating people are the ones who imply everyone should just shut up and “wait and see” or “leave them alone.” That kind of attitude and oppression is not in the spirit of Nina Simone whatsoever. Quite the opposite. Nina was vocal, defiant, a warrior, an activist. She would not have simply shut up and sat down. She would’ve shown up at the studio with a shotgun to speak with Ms. Mort and slapped the makeup off Zoe. So let’s get that straight first. We’re going to talk about this and those of us with strong, impassioned opinions are going to express them.
Zoe’s complexion (the level of her “blackness”) has taken the forefront in the discussion. Her complexion as well as her phenotype/features. We’re going to have to address this since obviously it is dominating the outcry against this project, understandably so. However, I believe this issue is a byproduct of the much, much larger issue: the total gentrification of Nina Simone. This occurred at the inception of this film so it’s no wonder the script and casting have come to symbolize the total fictionalization of Nina as a person and as an artist.
The script, written by Latin American writer and first time director Cynthia Mort, is based in a series of lies. That is our starting point. Cynthia calls this her “artistic license.” Under that umbrella what Cynthia is implying is that she can pretty much do whatever the hell she wants and she doesn’t have to listen to anyone. Cynthia has focused her story on Nina’s relationship with her personal assistant, Clifton Henderson, himself a controversial person in Nina’s life. Well before Nina’s death, before talks about a movie, there were issues expressed about Clifton’s intentions regarding Nina and his efforts to seemingly keep her isolated. He was around Nina for the last few years of her life. He can be seen with her in a filming of Nina’s concert in Brazil in 2000, during shots of Nina being interviewed in a boat.
Hit the flip to read the rest of the (long azz) “letter”.