Though Netflix has previously acquired other high-profile documentaries, this marks the first time that the streaming service is getting involved with a project at an early stage. Netflix will produce the film along with RadicalMedia in association with Garbus’s production company Moxie Firecracker Films. Garbus’s previous films include “Bobby Fischer Against the World,” “Love, Marilyn” and “The Farm: Angola, USA,” which was nominated for an Academy Award.
Her latest documentary features the unforgettable life of civil rights activist, artist and musician Nina Simone. The documentary stitches together segments from over 100 hours of never-before-heard audio tapes of interviews with Simone, creating a story largely told from Simone’s own words and personal point of view. Garbus has also included rare concert footage, diaries, letters and archival interviews with Simone’s daughter Lisa Simone Kelly.
“In What Happened, Miss Simone?, Liz Garbus paints a brave and provocative picture of Nina Simone – artist, civil rights activist and heroine – in a film that we’ve loved from day one and are proud to bring to our viewers around the world,” said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix VP of Original Documentary Programming, in a statement.
As a key part of its originals strategy, Netflix has invested heavily in its documentary portfolio over the past year. In July, the company acquired exclusive subscription-video rights to Orlando von Einsiedel’s acclaimed “Virunga,” which is on the Academy’s shortlist for feature documentaries. Following its first documentary acquisition, “The Square,” which was nominated for an Oscar last year, Netflix acquired more quality documentaries including “E-Team,” “Mission Blue,” “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” “Print the Legend” and “Brave is World.”
Directed by Garbus, produced by Amy Hobby (“Secretary,” “Love, Marilyn”), Justin Wilkes (“Made in America,” “Under African Skies”), Jayson Jackson (“Bridge & Tunnel on Broadway”), and executive produced by Sidney Beaumont (“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”), Jon Kamen (“The Fog of War”), Lisa Nishimura (“The Square,” “Virunga”), Adam Del Deo (“The Square,” “Every Little Step”) and Lisa Simone Kelly herself, the film will be released in all territories where Netflix is available in 2015.