Hollywood is getting ready to hit the slopes once again at the Sundance Film Festival. The most prestigious event of the year for art house and independent films, which will take place in January, announced its lineup this week.
There are a number of notable Black films premiering at the 2015 festival, including documentaries on Nina Simone, the Black Panthers, and crime drama Lila & Eve, in the vein of Thelma & Louise, starring Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez. Laverne Cox and Alfre Woodard are also among the talent with films at the upcoming festival. Cox co-stars in Grandma, about a misanthropic old woman whose routine is shaken up when she has to spend the day with her 18-year-old granddaughter. Woodard, meanwhile, is part of the ensemble cast of Mississippi Grind, which stars Ryan Reynolds as a poker player who embarks on a road trip for a high-stakes game in New Orleans.
The past couple of years have seen several breakthrough Black films come out of Sundance, with Fruitvale Station being the talk of the festival last year and Dear White People a critical and audience darling this past January.
Description of WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?:
A classically trained musical genius, chart-topping chanteuse, and Black Power icon, Nina Simone is one of the most influential, beloved, provocative, and least understood artists of our time. On stage, she was known for utterly free, rapturous performances, earning her the epithet “High Priestess of Soul.” But amid the violent, day-to-day fight for civil rights, she struggled to reconcile artistic ambition with her fierce devotion to a movement.
Director Liz Garbus sensitively explores the constant state of opposition that trapped and tortured Simone—as a classical pianist pigeonholed in jazz, as a professional boxed in by family life, as a black woman in racist America—and in so doing, reveals a towering figure transcending categorization and her times. The film stays true to Simone’s subjectivity by mining never-before-heard tapes, rare archival footage, and interviews with close friends and family.
Charting Simone’s musical inventiveness alongside the arc of her Jim Crow childhood, defining role in the Civil Rights Movement, arrival at Carnegie Hall, self-imposed exile in Liberia, and solitary life in France, this astonishingly intimate yet epic portrait becomes a non-fiction musical—lush tracks and riveting story resonating inextricably.