Directed by Liz Garbus, the story follows the singer’s life and journey from a classicly-trained pianist to becoming a soul, jazz, R&B, and blues crooner. The acute transition in style was made following Simone’s denial of a scholarship, believed to be based on her race, which also helped spark her strong stance on African American rights — so strong, in fact, that she is known to have taken some controversial moves as an activist, sometimes resulting in violence.
“I choose to reflect the times, and the situations in which I find myself,” Simone says in the film. “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?”
Narration of the trailer by her daughter, Lisa Celeste Stroud, who describes her unique talents as a heralded performer, plays with the iconic tune Feeling Good in the background. She’s described this way on stage. But off, the trailer discusses how she was fighting demons, despondent and vulnerable, and her demeanor could change like the flick of a switch. Indeed, Simone was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the ‘80s.
All in all, the trailer reflects Simone’s clearly passionate, talented, powerful, and difficult journey.
Through her career, Simone won a total of 15 Grammys, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000. She passed away following a battle with breast cancer in 2003 at the age of 70. But her legacy still lives on. And it looks like this documentary will do a great job at showcasing every side of her life, perhaps more effectively than the planned biopic starring Zoe Saldana as the troubled-but-talented singer.
“She was a genius, she was brilliant. But she paid a huge price,” says Stroud.
What Happened Miss Simone? will debut on Netflix June 26.