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For years, filmmaker Cynthia Mort sought to bring Nina Simone’s story to the screen, yet when the door finally opened, a wave of anticipation and controversy mounted before production even began.

The upcoming film Nina, aimed for release this year, will be Mort’s first feature length film project, and the first narrative centered on the famed singer and civil rights activist, played by A-list actress Zoe Saldana.

The choice to cast Saldana stands at the center of a debate over the film. Those displeased with Saldana’s selection have petitioned for Mort to recast the part. Celebrities such as India.ArieAretha Franklin, and even Simone’s daughter (a noted jazz singer) have voiced concerns over the choice.

Critics feel that Saldana does not adequately resemble Simone, who was known for celebrating her strong African features.

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