Nina Simone BioPic Casts Causes Controversy

Posted by at 8:54 pm on November 20, 2012

NPR is one source reporting that the recent casting for the long planned Nina Simone biography film is causing controversy. Known as the “High Priestess of Soul”, Ms. Simone was famous from the 1950’s through the 1970’s for both her musical talent and her civil right activism. Her work is stop popular and often used in TV, movie soundtracks and commercials.

Hip hop diva Mary J Blige was originally slated to star in a film about Simone’s life called Nina. She dropped the project after the shoot for the film was delayed. Director Cynthis Mort chose Zoe Saldana to take the role, and met with a good deal of vocal opposition. Many writers and women of color from various internet communities have commented on their disapproval of Saldana, who is a fair-skinned Afro-Latina, as Simone.

Erica Renee is one of several angry posters on YouTube who believes the choice of Saldana is jarringly incorrect. “It’s like super-disrespectful to cast an ethnically ambiguous person to portray a woman who battled the industry’s distaste for her dark skin, and her natural hair and her thick features,” she says in one of her videos. Renee says Saldana’s keen features and cafe au lait complexion are very close to Hollywood’s typical beauty standard.

The social website Change.org has circulated a petition asking director Cynthia Mort — who did not respond to our interview requests — to rethink the casting of Saldana in the title role. Petitioners said this isn’t a diss of Saldana and her considerable talent, but a request for someone who more closely mirrors Simone’s actual looks.

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