I was going to reserve final judgement about Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone in an unauthorized biopic until I saw the movie, but after these shots of Zoe done up in what can only be called blackface surfaced, I can't keep my mouth shut.
What the hell are the producers of this film thinking? Are they trying purposely to stomp all over Ms.Simone's core message? Be insulting to the black community? Or do they just not give a damn? Do they really think that followers of Nina's will come out in droves to watch a movie about her with a questionably black actress in blackface (yes, I did go there). If they were going to put the lead actress in blackface, a prosthetic nose, and a horrible afro wig, why not just get a white actress? Hell, just cast Julia Roberts, why even pretend to care by casting Zoe?
Nina was proud of her features, celebrated them. She talked and sang about the struggle of having dark skin and afrocentric features. Nina's look was an integral part of who she was. It is important in capturing her essence on film to have an actress that can really walk in her shoes. I really don't think that Nina would have been cool with the casting of Zoe further reinforcing the "light is right" theme that has plagued the black community forever. So who exactly thought it would be cool to totally ignore what Nina was all about? Let's ask Cynthia Mort, the white writer and director of the film.. In her interview with The New York Times, she states that her film does not intend to address Nina’s message and her support of black beauty, but will be “a love story.” Really? Maybe the director could throw in a little love for Nina's true beauty too...but then again you can't really expect a white woman to get why having someone shuck n' jive for the camera in blackface to play Nina Simone is damn offensive.
I felt a whole lot better about Zoe in this role when I thought they were just going to have her play Nina as she was, and have the audience just go with it...suspend disbelief. It's done, and it works. If the director was so damn concerned about the lead actress resembling Nina that she is putting Zoe in blackface, then maybe she just should have cast a darker African American actress that naturally has features more similar to Nina's?
Oh and Zoe? Shame on her for agreeing to be blackened like a minstrel for this role. Of all of the historical African American figures, Nina Simone absolutely should not be portrayed by an actress in blackface. And why doesn't Zoe get that? Perhaps because she's not an African American woman and doesn't truly get Nina's message. Yes, I went there one more time. Just sayin'.