“What Happened, Miss Simone?” Oscar’s Nomination of Diversity
Each year I look forward to the Academy Awards, even as far back as a child, perhaps because I was born, raised and live in Los Angeles. I have a great love for movies, music and television because it has always been part of my life. This year, as so much negative reaction circles about from an ire that has been raised over the lack of African Americans in the high profile nominations, I feel robbed of my usual excitement and Awards show anticipation due to the angry words and threats that keep buzzing around. I do agree and understand why the anger, I mean really, “Mad Max, Fury Road” nominated but not “Straight Outta Compton?” That is beyond comprehension. Where is O’Shea Jackson Jr’s nom? Anyway …
Trying to focus on films that I need to see before the Awards and not the negativity, I catch up seeing as many films as I can that were nominated this year. Today I watched “What Happened, Miss Simone?” on Netflix. Nominated Best Documentary Feature, this film is and does as much for being a brilliant, deep, explosive and insightful social statement as “Straight Outta Compton,” but I haven’t heard any shouts of praise from the same personalities and groups that are screaming out against the Academy for a lack of diversity. Come on people, and I mean all people of every ethnic background, please speak up for “What Happened, Miss Simone?.” This film is nominated and should be awarded the Oscar for its category.
Though I already knew and liked Nina Simone as jazz and blues singer music because I have listened to many of her records, I knew very little about her and the great depth of her talent and life until watching this film. Nina Simone was a brilliant, sensitive, but emotionally and physically abused woman; she was a black woman born in poverty and was a gifted pianist from the age of four. She could have been and wanted to be the first black woman to become a renowned classical pianist, but her classical music career took a different path when a white music college did not accept her application, even though she was much more talented than the white musicians who were accepted. Nina Simone had dedicated her life since childhood to learn and play classical piano but when she had no money, Nina had to use her talent to earn a living as a blues and jazz singer-songwriter and musician, and became very successful as many people know. Her music career shot to incredible highs and dipped to depressing lows. What I didn’t know until watching this film was that Nina Simone was a very outspoken social activist for civil rights and she used her fame and talent to fight discrimination and segregation and motivate African Americans to rise and fight (literally) for their rights. Her song “Mississippi Goddam” is as much of a statement of disgust and a stand against civil injustice and brutality as NWA’s “Fuck the Police.” But the recording of “Mississippi Goddam” was never allowed to be sold or be played on any radio stations, even though Nina Simone was a very popular recording artist already. She was almost the anti-Martin Luther King because she was against non-violent protest – Nina Simone was that angry about how Black Americans were abused and discriminated against by a white majority and it became her mission and obsession to fight for civil liberty for African Americans. Isn’t this part of Nina Simone’s story the overture to “Straight Outta Compton?”
As the movie ended and credits scrolled, I was sitting with thoughts of dismay bouncing around my mind over why the film and music community isn’t saying anything about this documentary, when I saw my last name, Nishimura, scroll by. “Am I seeing a mirage?” I thought to myself. I stopped the film and scrolled back and sure enough, Lisa Nishimura was credited as a Producer. I looked up the film credits on IMDB and found that she is a Netflix VP and an Executive Producer of “What Happened, Miss Simone?” Lisa Nishimura may not be a blood relative of mine (that I know of), but she is an Asian American/Japanese American like me. Bravo to Netflix, for producing a great documentary film, “What Happened, Nina Simone?” and for having Lisa Nishimura on your executive team!
If I may express my opinion … The Academy Awards should become much more diverse and the honors representative of the contributions of film professionals of many different ethnic backgrounds, including Asians.
#whathappenedmisssimone #ninasimone #academyawardnomination #documentaryfilm #netflix #diversity #oscarnomination #asianamerican #lisanishimura #japaneseamerican