The long-awaited but endlessly controversial Nina Simone biopic, Nina, starring Zoe Saldana has released its first trailer.

Nina Simone was an American vocalist who struggled with a balance between her career and political activism. The movie centers around her period of isolation in France where she meets Clifton Henderson, her nurse-turned-manager portrayed by Selma‘s David Oyelowo.

Producers have been trying to make the film for over half a decade. Mary J. Blige was attached as the star in 2010 but had dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Bringing Saldana on as Simone has brought the movie great controversy, as Simone was much darker than Saldana.

Lanita Jacobs, an anthropology professor at the University of Southern California explained to NPR in 2012 that, “Nina’s music taps into a certain kind of awareness born of the way she looks.”

Simone’s daughter, Simone Kelly has objected to the film as well, criticizing its casting choice and the tone of the script, and contributing to Netflix’s Oscar-nominated documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?

She told the New York Times in 2012, “My mother was raised in a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this is not the best choice. She also told Ebony, “As an actress I respect [Zoe Saldana’s] process, but I also know that there are many actresses out there, known or not, who would be great as my mother.”

But this trailer and the recently revealed poster, where critics claimed Saldana was in “blackface” because of the makeup attempts to make her darker, prove that the movie, which was first screened at the Cannes Film Festival two years ago, is not turning back despite the controversy, and will be released as planned on April 22.


Selma is directed by newcomer Cynthia Mort.

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