Last December Netflix, perhaps emboldened by the success of its acquired documentaries, announced that it would be getting into the documentary-production business as well. To that end, it’s just released the trailer for its inaugural production, What Happened, Miss Simone?, as well as given it a June 25 release date.
Over the refrains of the Simone classics “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “Feeling Good,” the trailer shares glimpses of the folk/jazz/soul singer and activist while storytelling at the piano, admonishing an unruly audience member, and questioning the artistry of anyone whose work wasn’t shaped by the turbulent times in which she lived. Director Liz Garbus, who was nominated for an Oscar for The Farm: Angola, USA, worked with a treasure trove of biographical materials, as well as the full approval of the Simone family, on a film that appears to yield more revelations about its subject than Garbus’ previous tragic-icon documentary, HBO‘s Love, Marilyn.
The documentary opened this year’s Sundance Film Festival and has already received favorable reviews. Though Garbus includes original and repurposed interviews with family, friends, and longtime collaborators, she effectively leaves it to Simone herself to answer the titular question, first posed in verse by Maya Angelou, by focusing on archival footage of the singer on and off the stage.