Award-winning director Liz Garbus has made a compelling, if sometimes troubling, documentary about a compelling and troubling figure—the talented and increasingly iconic performer, Nina Simone. The title, What Happened, Miss Simone?, comes from an essay that Maya Angelou wrote in 1970. In the opening seconds of the film, excerpts from Angelou’s words appear: “Miss Simone, you are idolized, even loved, by millions now. But what happened, Miss Simone?”
They spoke to listeners across generations from the early 1940s through the 1980s. They were influential women who faced tremendous risks both personally and professionally. They sang and performed for gender equality and racial liberation. They had names such as Lena Horne, Nina Simone, and Gladys Knight. They were the most powerful black female entertainers of the Civil Rights era.