Berlin International Film Festival

Liz Garbus, Lisa Simone Kelly – What Happened, Miss Simone? #Berlinale

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11 min. and 16 sec.

How to tell the real story of an icon without being patronizing and reductive. Truthfulness hurts but heals.

Play Podcast
11 min. and 16 sec.

Liz Garbus / Lisa Simone Kelly – director / daughter of Nina Simone – What Happened, Miss Simone?

FRED’s Angelo Acerbi meets Liz Garbus, the director of What Happened, Miss Simone? and Lisa Simone Kelly, daughter of the great Nina Simone. The film was presented in the Panorama Dokumente section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.

Talking with Liz Garbus and Lisa Simone Kelly talk about this powerful, enlightening and relieving documentary. The fact that some harsh truths are revealed about the private life of Nina Simone, an absolute icon of the history of music in such a direct and simple way is equally as touching as it is shocking, but what they wanted to do in this film was also set a new starting point for all Nina Simone fans to understand completely the greatness and pain of the life of such an irreplaceable artist.

Plot: Sometime after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King she is to be seen standing on a stage before an entirely Afro-American audience. Her hair is piled as high as a turban, there are enormous earrings swinging from her ears and she seems to be bewitching the crowd: are you ready to take up arms? Are you ready to kill? By this time Nina Simone was no longer merely the amazingly talented classical and jazz pianist and unmistakable singer politely presenting her version of ‘I loves you Porgy’ in the TV show ‘Playboy’s Penthouse’ moderated by Hugh Hefner, but a politically committed human rights activist capable of provoking – both in her public and private life. Making use of copious archive footage, documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus weaves the various phases of Simone’s life – right up to her final years in Europe when she oscillated between being broke, lonely and sick and a celebrated jazz festival star – into a detailed and atmospheric portrait of a driven artiste.


  • Reporter
    Angelo Acerbi
  • Guest
    Liz Garbus / Lisa Simone Kelly
  • Interviewee role
    Director / Daughter of Nina Simone
  • Film title
    What Happened, Miss Simone?
  • Festival section
    Panorama Dokumente
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