Oscar Nominee Liz Garbus & Lisa Simone Kelly: "What Happened, Miss Simone"

Black power icon, classically trained pianist, dive-bar chanteuse and legendary recording artist, Nina Simone lived a life of political commitment, brutal honesty and musical genius. In this documentary, director Liz Garbus interweaves never-before-heard recordings and rare archival footage together with Nina’s most memorable songs, to create a portrait of one of the least understood, yet most relevant, artists and activists of our time.

Liz Garbus documents the captivating story of musical legend Nina Simone over the course of three decades in the Netflix original documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?.

Academy Award-Nominated and Emmy Award-Winning Producer/Director Liz Garbus is one of America’s most celebrated documentary filmmakers.  Garbus’s film, Love, Marilyn (Studiocanal/HBO), opened as a Gala Premiere at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival and was acquired by HBO for a 2013 debut.  Hailed as “a miracle of a documentary” by Entertainment Weekly, the film utilized a cast of A-list actors, including Adrien Brody, Glenn Close, Paul Giamatti, Uma Thurman, Viola Davis and others, reading from Monroe’s never-before-seen private writings, to bring her voice to a contemporary audience.

In 2011, Garbus’s Bobby Fischer Against The World (HBO) opened the Premiere Documentary Section of the Sundance Film Festival, reserved for master American documentary filmmakers.  Called “brilliant” by Entertainment Weekly and “epic…larger than life drama” by Vanity Fair, it chronicled the great Cold War showdown between Fischer and Boris Spassky in 1972, peeling away the complex psychological layers of this reluctant American hero. Also in 2011, Garbus was nominated for a second time for an Academy Award for her film Killing in the Name, which she produced with partner Rory Kennedy.  The film chronicles the journey of Ashraf, a man whose wedding ceremony was destroyed by a terrorist's’ bomb that killed his father and 26 members of his family, and who is now rising from tragedy to break the silence in the Muslim community on the taboo subject of terrorism.

Garbus’s first nomination came in 1998, when she won international public and critical acclaim for her now canonical film about prison life in America, The Farm: Angola, USA.  Made in collaboration with Jonathan Stack, The Farm was the result of a three-year relationship that the filmmakers fostered with Louisiana Corrections Officials and with six men confined at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.  In addition to its Oscar nod, The Farm won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, two Emmy Awards, the National Film Critics Best Documentary of the Year, as well as over a dozen other awards and festival grand jury prizes.

Garbus has also produced and directed multiple television specials for networks including Lifetime, MTV, A&E, Discovery, Court TV, Sundance Channel, Oxygen, and many others.  She has been a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, The Charlie Rose Show, CNN, Good Morning America, Extra!, The Johnnie Cochran Show, National Public Radio, the Sundance Channel, and the Independent Film Channel.  Her work has been featured in the Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times, as well as The Washington Post, the LA Times, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, New York Magazine, Glamour and other publications.  Garbus has also spoken at a number of film-related events, including the 1999 and 2000 Independent Feature Film Market, panels and workshops at the Sundance Film Festival, as a Guest Lecturer at NYU, and she has served on juries at several major film festivals.  Garbus graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brown University in 1992 and is a Fellow of the Open Society’s Center on Crime, Communities, and Culture.

Lisa Simone Kelly, better known as Simone and Lisa Simone in entertainment circles, is a United States Air Force veteran, singer, composer, Grammy award nominee, award-winning actress, and the only child of Nina Simone. Her career in the entertainment industry began over 20 years ago in Frankfurt Germany, while serving in the military.

Kelly originated the Disney roles of both Aida (Aida) and Nala (The Lion King) and won the National Broadway Theatre Award for Best Actress in a Musical in the lead role of Aida while heading up its first national tour. She continued in the role at New York’s Palace Theatre to much critical acclaim (Variety/ Billboard). A member of the original Broadway cast of Rent in the role of Mimi Marquez, Kelly garnered nominations for the Helen Hayes and Jefferson Awards. She was nominated for a Grammy Award as a member of Liquid Soul for their album “Here’s The Deal,” and has continued to blaze a trail from New York’s Carnegie and Town Halls and Australia’s Sydney Opera House alongside Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo, Odetta and Tracy Chapman, to headlining worldwide jazz festivals in Telluride, Montreux, the North Sea and Paris. Kelly was a featured performer on the soundtrack of Tyler Perry’s movie For Colored Girls and topped the jazz charts with her big band tribute album to her mother, “Simone On Simone.”

Lisa Simone Kelly is on tour supporting her album “All Is Well,” currently number 4 on FNAC’s jazz charts, to sold-out venues across Europe. She will be recording a sophomore Nina Simone tribute album with the Tromso Big Band, live at The Edge in Tromso, Norway in January 2015. 

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