Her.Stories: Nina Simone biopic, Toronto Int’l Film Fest, Sweden & women filmmakers, and For a Good Time, Call…

The Controversy Surrounding the Casting of Zoë Saldana                
as Nina Simone in Cynthia Mort’s New Biopic

Cynthia Mort is writer/director of a yet to be titled biopic(ish) of the legendary singer/musician Nina Simone.  With Mary J. Blige originally attached (for several years before she departed the project allegedly due to financial problems with the production), Zoë Saldana has recently been cast as Simone.  There has been an outcry about this mainly around the fact that Saldana bears no resemblance to Simone, but also because Saldana is a Latina (she’s also black, by the way) and has a lighter skin tone than Simone.  Director Mort has indicated that it’s not a strict biopic as it takes liberties with the facts (one of which is that Simone had an affair with a gay man — she didn’t).  Even Simone’s daughter, whose name is simply “Simone,” has spoken out against the story, and has claimed that following an initial conversation with Mort where they agreed to speak again, Simone was met with silence for, as Mort explains separately in an Entertainment Weekly interview, she was told not to communicate with Simone.

One disturbing fact about this entire conversation is that I have seen several articles that refer to Saldana explicitly as “Dominican,” without mentioning the fact she is multiracial — yes, she is a Latina, but she is also a Black Latina (and there are a great many number of Black Latinos in the world).  Also, this is not to disregard that she may be more than “just” Latina and Black.  The language used to describe her as a Latina, while simultaneously avoiding that she is also Black smacks to me of a sort of ethnocentrism which pits the Latino community against the Black community and dismisses Saldana’s ethnic, racial and cultural complexities (just like we all have).  Yes, I’m in agreement that the casting is bad because of the complete lack of resemblance Saldana holds to Simone (and yes, resemblance also includes skin tone), but I do not think that “she’s not Black, but Latina,” is a valid argument against Saldana being cast in the role; in fact, that argument is completely fallacious.  That is one reason I wanted to provide this digest, to not only follow along with the controversy surrounding a biopic of a woman I greatly admire and have been a fan of for years, but also to address, in some small way, the prejudiced approach that many journalists and those choosing to leave comments on news sites, have taken with regard to Saldana playing Nina Simone.

What are YOUR thoughts? Please leave a reply below.

*MUST READ*:  We Need To Educate Ourselves On Race vs. Ethnicity (And Other Things I Learned From The Ongoing Zoe Saldana/Nina Simone Conversation)
at Shadow and Act

Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone: My thoughts
at the Monique Blog: race, entertainment, culture

Nina Simone’s Daughter on Her Mother’s REAL Legacy
at Ebony

Will ‘Avatar’ Actress Zoe Saldana Play Legendary Singer Nina Simone?
at The Daily Beast

Disappearing Acts: Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone & The Erasure of Black Women in Film
at The Huffington Post

Nina Simone’s Daughter Responds to Zoe Saldana Casting, Says Film Is ‘Unauthorized’
at Clutch Magazine

Larger-than-life: Nina Simone film writer-director, others, on beauty, challenge of musician biopics
at Entertainment Weekly

Casting Notice For Nina Simone Project Reveals More About What To Expect…
at indieWIRE

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Other stories about women in film this week:

Toronto & Women Directors
at Wellywood Woman

The Smart and Funny Young Women Behind the Most Surprisingly Empowering Movie of the Year
at The Huffington Post

More Female Documentary Directors, But Celluloid Ceiling Remains
at The Wrap

Ann Richards Film Recalls a Woman and Her Era
at the New York Times

First-Time Director Leslye Headland Talks About Her Uproarious Comedy ‘Bachelorette’
at Backstage

Reichert honore for lifetime achievement in film
at YS News

Venice film festival: female directors get recognition for a change
at The Guardian

LUND 2012: New Wave Of Titles Focus On Female Filmmakers In Genre Film
at Twitch Film

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Her.Stories: interviews with women filmmakers, acquisitions, and the French teach Hollywood about female talent

Her.Stories is a reboot of the Women’s Stories Weekly occasional series which was started in 2011.  Visit the Her.Stories page to peruse the archives.

Round Table: Julie Delpy, Ava DuVernay and Leslye Headland on directing
in the Los Angeles Times

Cinema Libre Studio secures rights to ‘Lemon’ doc
at indieWIRE

Sophia Takal’s ‘Green’ picked up by Factory 25
at indieWIRE

Quote of the Day: Emma Stone points out sexist double standards in media
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Mia Hansen-Love, a firmly ambiguous filmmaker
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Marjane Satrapi on ‘Chicken with Plums’ (and her other work)
at Think Progress

Mary Ann Williamson on her short film, ‘Packed’
at Westword

As Executives, Women must Stop Assimilating (How to empower women in Hollywood)
in the New York Times

Finance, Track, Research and Promote (How to empower women in Hollywood)
in the New York Times

Women directors surpass gender politics in showbiz
at Wonderwoman

Hollywood’s Unsung Scouts: THR Profiles Six Hot Casting Directors (most are women)
in The Hollywood Reporter

French film fest fetes female talent  
at SF Gate