10 fantastic music biopics that you may not know

Films you might have missed but need to see.

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DOCUMENTARY No. 4

WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? (2015)

Liz Garbus’ penetrating exploration of Nina Simone’s life and career is a very bold document. The movie was authorized by Simone’s family, and her daughter Lisa offers some very pointed commentary on the mother she loved and struggled to understand. The movie begins in Switzerland in 1976 as we watch Nina Simone’s attempted comeback from a partly self-imposed purgatory. She is a fascinating character – very guarded, and nervous, yet still fierce and formidable. Much of the rest of the movie sets out to explain how she came to this point.

Simone speaks a lot in the movie, and we see very clearly how she tended to respond confrontationally – even violently – to provocation. She had difficult, abusive relationships throughout her life. She also had extraordinary musical gits, apparent from an early age.

As she developed her own brand of blues-jazz fusion, she also willingly dove into political conflict, knowing full well that it would likely damage her career. And damage it did. Which is why we find her with shields up in Switzerland in the mid-1970s. Garbus’s movie does a remarkable job of peering behind those shields at a fascinating musician and a fascinating life.