In honor of Women’s History Month, I thought it would be appropriate to share Netflix selections that highlight significant creative achievements by women in history and contemporary times.
My first selection is a definite fave, the critically acclaimed documentary WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? tells the story of the late, legendary singer, musician, and civil rights activist Nina Simone – using recordings/interviews/ performances by Ms. Simone, rare archival footage, and interviews of those who knew her, including daughter and one of the film’s producers Lisa Simone Kelly.
And with the recent April 2016 release date announcement of the film “Nina,” in which Zoe Saldana was awkwardly cast (with pretty much blackface) in the title role, I believe it’s fitting to watch this story of the accomplished musician – who also battled colorism with her music – being told while including Ms. Simone’s voice.
But I must admit, I hard a time viewing the interview scenes with her former manager/ex-husband Andrew Stroud. Described by Ms. Simone as abusive, I wasn’t comfortable with his take on the events and essentially director Liz Garbus’ decision to allow an abuser to paint his description of the victim’s experience.
Otherwise, I thought the documentary was insightful, and the performances displaying the late performer’s musical genius – especially the finale with Ms. Simone brilliantly playing one tune on piano while singing another, her hit song “My Baby Just Cares for Me” – were spellbinding. See what’s in store by viewing the trailer here:
My next selection, MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, is the second feature film directed by acclaimed filmmaker, and #blackgirlmagic champion, Ava DuVernay. It tells the story of Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi), who puts her medical school dreams on the back burner to focus the needs of her incarcerated husband (Omari Hardwick), who’s been sentenced to 8 years.
Also co-starring are the brilliant David Oyelowo (Red Tails,The Help) as Ruby’s love interest and the remarkable veteran actress Lorraine Toussaint (Any Day Now, The Soloist) who plays Ruby’s “no holds barred” mother Ruth.
“Middle of Nowhere” is a remarkable portrait of one woman’s journey, through overwhelming circumstances, back to herself. And it’s a poignant social commentary on the experiences of loved ones when people are incarcerated. The movie won the U.S. Directing Award: Dramatic at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival – making Ms. DuVernay the first African-American female director to win the coveted award.
Now I was fortunate enough to interview Ava DuVernay, and lead actress Emayatzy Corinealdi, back in October 2012 prior to the film’s début – and her pivotal 2014 work SELMA. You can click the hyperlinks to get the MMT reviews and interviews for both films.
And how many folk, like myself, are excited and waiting for the release of OWN’s DuVernay-helmed “Queen Sugar?” Well along with “Middle of Nowhere,” you can watch Ms. DuVernay’s first feature début I WILL FOLLOW on Netflix and get your fix until the OWN series debuts.
“I Will Follow” is another female character study, with Salli Richardson-Whitfield portraying Maye – a woman mourning the loss of her beloved aunt, while preparing to move out the home they shared. It also stars Omari Harwick (Power, Sparkle) and Michole Briana White (Lila & Eve, 25th Hour).
The movie is an understated drama, so if character-driven stories aren’t your cup of tea you most likely won’t dig it – but I really enjoyed it and, similar to Ruby in Middle of Nowhere, was moved by the journey the lead character experienced from beginning to end.
Alright family, that’s it for this month. Would love to hear your thoughts if you watch any of the recommendations, and if you’ve already seen them please share your comments for others to review.
Until next thought, Thomasena
PS – are you following MMT on Facebook? Some great things coming up – mumbles Batman vs Superman under breath, so make sure you are. I’m inviting one lucky person to be MMT guests with (2) reserved seats at the Philly screening, so join us over on Facebook!