Okay I will confess I really like Liz Garbus. She has not made a bad documentary in her life that I am aware of including Love, Marilyn, The World Against Bobby Fischer and the Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. Go check them out if you have not seen them. This is another winner. The film uses interviews with her former husband and manager, her daughter and niece to great effect but the news footage of her and Stokley Carmichael and others is even more powerful. Nina Simone was an amazing pianist and jazz/blues singer who suffered from manic depression and who took a potentially super star career to the depths of despair as she fought against racism in the US in 60’s and 70’s. Her life was tragic but through it all her powerful voice, song writing ability and passion for her music and her community kept her alive and fighting. I cannot recommend this film more. It is nominated for Best Documentary and is up against a biographical documentary about Amy Winehouse which took the BAFTA Award this year. I don’t see it. However good “Amy” is she did not live long enough nor was she committed enough to warrant beating out this movie. In this year of ever so white Oscars they could take a mini-step in the right direction to recognize this champion of human rights and freedom.
Not a great movie and likely nominated for the pro-Western political perspective it offers. The technique of the documentary is very in your face with no clear narrative but a collection of real life encounters with participants in the conflict. They include not only leaders but people in the street and so it is visceral in its impact. The director followed the style of a previous Netflix movie called The Square about the uprising in Egypt that focussed in demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Both films take the viewer into the streets with the protestors and shows the conflict from that perspective. It is a powerful technique that builds sympathy in the viewers for those who are in the midst of the conflict. The problem in both cases is that it also simplifies the struggle going on in the country. In both situations and particularly in Ukraine the situation is not nearly as simple as it is portrayed. Ukraine is of critical strategic importance to east and west and is as a result the focus of much interference from both sides. This aspect of the conflict is not addressed in the film and so I am not entirely happy with it. I do not necessarily accuse the film makers of political propaganda but the film is of limited value because of its focus on the street alone. If you want to see better example of the technique however I would recommend The Square over this film.