8 March 2016 - Nina Simone biopic sparks controversy
Zoe Saldana in dark-makeup is no way to represent Nina Simone onscreen
Last week, the trailer and poster for the forthcoming Nina Simone biopic were released, and we were given our first look at Zoe Saldana playing the legendary musician. Saldana reportedly replaced the singer Mary J Blige after the latter dropped out before shooting began. Indeed, it’s been a controversial decision from the start, with Simone’s daughter describing it as “not the best choice”.
Debate surrounding the film, Nina – which is based on Simone’s 1992 autobiography – was reignited when the poster was released. It showed the actress with a darker skin tone and a seemingly wider nose than usual. The trailer, in which Saldana again appears in dark makeup, only made for more uncomfortable viewing.
As a lighter-skinned actress of mixed Latino and African heritage, Saldana cannot deny the advantage that her physical appearance gives her over her darker counterparts when going up for parts. India Arie, who played Simone in the TV movie American Dreams, said that Saldana’s appearance in the film made her “sad”. In an open letter, Arie referred to the casting as an example of “black(er) face” – with the actor having to darken up to play Simone.
Taryn Finley (The Huffington Post, 07/03/2016)
The songstress, who acted as Simone in a 2003 musical performance, told The Hollywood Reporter during an interview about the film that she wasn't pleased with the way Simone was portrayed after seeing an early version of the film in 2013. She noted that the way filmmakers made Simone look in the film betrayed the late singer's true beauty. But Arie said the claim Saldana isn't "black enough" for the role is a "messy" way to frame a bigger issue.
"I think the best way to say it is that they casted her against type and went too far to make her fit," Arie said about the black and Hispanic actress. Arie first addressed the controversy in a letter to Simone's fan site in 2012 after images of Saldana in a darker face and fake nose surfaced.
Katie Rogers (The New York Times, 03/03/2016)
A debate over whether Zoe Saldana is the right actress to star in a biopic of Nina Simone, the black singer, pianist and civil rights activist, has been reignited after a poster and trailer of the movie were unveiled online this week and a message from a Twitter account belonging to representatives of Ms. Simone’s estate attacked the actress.
Social media users have long debated the aesthetics of the casting since 2012, when Ms. Saldana, who has described herself as both black and Latina, was announced as the face of the movie, “Nina,” which opens on April 22 and aims to tell the story of Ms. Simone, whose work adamantly emphasized the power and beauty of black skin.
Comments seemed to focus not so much on Ms. Saldana’s acting ability (she co-starred as a blue-skinned alien in “Avatar,” a bazooka-carrying assassin in Luc Besson’s “Colombiana” and a green-skinned warrior in “Guardians of the Galaxy”). But they questioned whether the actress had the right skin tone and features to be believable as Ms. Simone, who was proud of her skin color and features and became famous in an era when her traits were often dismissed.
Nina Simone's daughter
Ned Ehrbar (CBS News, 07/03/2016)
Saldana has faced a rash of backlash following the release last week of the trailer for "Nina," her long-delayed biopic about the famed jazz singer, and a good deal of that backlash was prompted by the Twitter account for the estate of Simone,
"Please take Nina's name out your mouth. For the rest of your life," the account tweeted, as well as a video of Simone singing "Go to Hell."
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"8 March 2016 - Nina Simone biopic sparks controversy", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), août 2016. Consulté le 25/02/2024. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/key-story/archives-revue-de-presse-2016/8-march-2016-nina-simone-biopic-sparks-controversy