Controversy has swirled around Zoe Saldana's Nina Simone biopic almost since day one, beginning with her being cast as the soulful singer. The chief complaint is, ironically, that the role had been white-washed by having the lighter-skinned, more traditionally beautiful Saldana in the lead role, and the outcry really hasn't ceased in the two years since filming on Nina wrapped. So if it's been completed for that long, why hasn't it been released? More drama, only this time it was of the legal variety as the director, Cynthia Mort, sued the production company claiming they basically took the film away from her.
Not good, right? Well the film was quietly bought by indie distributor RLJ Entertainment last fall, and with a multi-platform release coming up the first trailer has finally dropped. Co-starring David Oyelowo, Ella Joyce, and Mike Epps as Richard Pryor, the film takes place towards the end of her career when she had become a radical activist disillusioned with America until she forged a relationship with her assistant, Clifton Henderson. Here's the official synopsis:
NINA traces the career of legendary American singer-songwriter and civil rights activist, Nina Simone (Saldana). The story follows her struggle to balance music, family and what she believes in, which leaves her living alone in France feeling exiled from her own country. That is, until she meets Clifton Henderson (Oyelowo) who helps the high priestess of soul rediscover meaning in her life and music, and to once again embrace America. NINA reflects both her and the people she gave voice to in both their searches for redemption and hope in America during the 1960's.
Those complaining about Saldana's look aren't likely to be appeased by this footage, which shows her noticeably darkened for the role. Otherwise the film looks solid, but we'll have to wait until Nina opens in theaters and VOD on April 22nd.