Zoe Saldana Defending ‘Nina’ – Please Just Stop

Stephen Jordan - Author

Jun. 19 2016, Updated 12:56 a.m. ET

Actress Zoe Saldana made a pretty bold move when she decided to take on the role of Nina Simone in a biopic about the singer/activist’s life. Nina, written and directed by Cynthia Mort, focuses on a particularly dark period in the singer’s career and gives us a look at her relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson. The decision to accept this role was pretty bold due to the fact that – one, Zoe looks nothing like Nina Simone, two, the filmmakers applied makeup on her face to make her dark-skinned, and three, Zoe fundamentally does not understand who Nina was, and vehemently refuses to rectify that ignorance.

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Cynthia Mort, and frankly everyone involved in making this film, is guilty as well. But Zoe continues to voice her opinion on the criticism she, and the movie, has been receiving. Mort did speak with BuzzFeed and talked about how and why Nina pretty much became the failure that it currently is, while also ultimately defending their decision to cast Zoe and move forward with production.

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This was 11 years in the making, folks, with the final version of the movie being one that Cynthia Mort did not want released. Almost everything about this project sounds horrible, even if you remove Zoe Saldana as Nina. The film is not being made by Black artists, which is a major problem in and of itself. Yes, you All Lives Matter protesters – race does matter. Especially when you’re talking about someone, a Black woman, who made absolutely sure to never ignore or downplay her Blackness in her music.

Casting Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone was, according to the financiers of the picture, a much safer choice due to the myth that a movie such as this could never be successful without a big name attached to it.

“You would want things to have gone down in a different way,” Mort told BuzzFeed, discussing how difficult it was ignoring Lisa Simone Kelly’s (Nina’s only child) concern over the film. “That’s how she felt. Nobody was sitting around saying, Oh, too bad. It was tough! Tough for Zoe, tough for all of us.”

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But you went ahead and made it anyway. You felt that giving Zoe as prosthetic nose and applying makeup to darken her skin was the best way to go. Believe it or not, Cynthia Mort actually thinks of herself as “a radical feminist” who is aware that colorism is an issue, despite everything that I just said. A (white) radical feminist thought it’d be best to be apart of a project with white people telling the story of a Black woman, hiring an actress who looks nothing like Nina Simone and having to apply blackface to try and make up for it.

Everything about this is a complete and utter slap in the face to not only Black people everywhere, but Black women specifically. But go ahead and tout your progressive feminism.

“Listen, what we did was the same as has been done in a hundred movies, and is done all the time,” said Barnaby Thompson, one of the producers on the film, essentially whitesplaining. “It’s hard to answer these questions, because this is a political debate and I’m not a politician, I’m a filmmaker.”

Actually, no, Barnaby, this is not a political issue and I really wish people would stop saying that just to distance themselves from the possibility that they participated in something racist, or blatantly damaging to the Black community.

“I’m not going to deny them their feelings. It’s difficult to know, and I don’t want to be disrespectful,” he said. Then you probably should not have participated in the movie, Barnaby.


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