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Director of Nina Film, Cynthia Mort, Speaks Out About Controversy

A writer at Buzzfeed did an interview with her and producer Barnaby Thompson, who Mort is suing for re-editing the film. They’re also at odds with each other about the decision to pick Zoe Saldana. This is what Mort had to say about it:

“For me, Zoe was a creative decision,” she said. “However, long before I met Zoe, there were other people considered who were not acceptable to financiers. And for Barnaby to say anything other than that is incorrect.”


In other words, she chose Zoe because financiers saw her as bankable (gee I wonder why) and she acted the part of Nina, who in her opinion is “reckless and fierce”.

But this is what Thompson had to say:

“There is a narrative that seems to be running in some of the coverage of the film, which is suggesting that we were making decisions driven by commercial reasons. And I think it should be very clear that this is a low-budget indie movie. The budget was just over $7 million,” he said.

Thompson compared the actor search to the difficulties of casting Hamlet. “The decision to hire Zoe was that she ticked the quite stringent boxes that required ticking in a way that very few other actresses did,” he said. “I read about this movie like it’s in a parallel universe, like it was a big Hollywood film. Like we all thought we were going to make millions — no one ever thought that they were going to make millions out of this story!”


Regarding the accusations of colorism, Mort and Thompson had this to say:

Mort: “It pisses me off on that level. As a creative person, is it important? Yes. But also what’s important is to find a way to tell the truth in a narrative film. It’s not a documentary. You can go online and see 225 videos of Nina Simone, and everybody should. But that’s not what this is. It’s a narrative film. You help your actor inhabit a character any way that you can. Just as Nicole Kidman put on Virginia Woolf’s nose, or Leo did his J. Edgar Hoover makeup—” she interrupted herself, and spoke emphatically. I understand the issue of race. And color is a sensitive issue. But at the same time, it is a movie. And it is an actor. And everyone is doing their best to find the truth in that.”


She also said she’s a ““a radical feminist who is aware of anyone who is disenfranchised or marginalized.”

Thompson: “Listen, what we did was the same as has been done in a hundred movies, and is done all the time. It’s hard to answer these questions, because this is a political debate and I’m not a politician, I’m a filmmaker. We did what we thought was right to tell the story. Other people have to speak to the politics of it. If people feel strongly about these things, I’m not going to deny them their feelings. It’s difficult to know, and I don’t want to be disrespectful.”


I highly recommend you guys read the entire article. You’ll also get to read Robert L. Johnson, the founder of BET’s bullshit opinion about the Nina controversy.

Here’s my opinion:

Nothing about these interviews surprised me. Mort and Thompson clearly don’t care about the concerns of those who have a problem with this film. This was a vanity project for them. In their delusional minds, they probably thought they would get an Oscar out of this, but they were horribly mistaken. If the lack of representation of dark skinned black women doesn’t matter to you as a “radical feminist”, then you’re not truly a feminist and you’re a shitty artist. You hear that excuse all the time with some white artists: “What? It’s art! Why should representation matter?”


It matters All. The. Time. It’s especially disturbing that someone who claims to be a fan of Nina Simone would not find it important to choose a woman who looks as close to her as possible to play her. The awareness of black beauty, especially dark skinned black beauty, was important to Nina.

Part of me feels like white people should stop telling stories of people of color because they almost never get shit right. When they are including us in films, tv shows, books, etc., we are always stereotyped and characters get killed off with the quickness (Hi producers of Sleepy Hallow!). I’m sick of asking to be respected and getting apathy as a response.

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