• Frans Schellekens/Redferns

    Little Girl Blue

    The Secret Life of Nina Simone

    Before her roaring performance at the 1976 Montreaux Jazz Festival, Nina Simone was a star dimensioned by near bankruptcy and self-imposed exile. A new documentary asks ‘What Happened, Miss Simone’?

    It was an historic moment when Nina Simone took the stage at the 1976 Montreaux Jazz Festival, marking her return to music following an extended period of near bankruptcy and self-imposed exile. It’s hard to imagine Simone’s immense presence and immeasurable talent ever falling off the map. What Happened, Miss Simone?, Liz Garbus’ new documentary about the High Priestess of Soul, uses the concert to pose—and eventually come full to answer—its titular question. Unearthing a wealth of archival footage, rare interviews, and diary excerpts, the film narrates the triumphs and tragedies of Simone’s life and career largely in the late singer’s unmistakable voice, which by her own admission, “sometimes sounds like gravel and sometimes sounds like coffee and cream.”

    The metaphor extends to her erratic temperament, which could turn on a dime from vulnerable to volatile. Highly demanding and wildly unpredictable, Simone would infamously walk out on her audience or insult them midway through a song if she felt she wasn’t getting the undivided attention she deserved—but when she had them, they were rapt under her spell.

  • Lena Dunham poses for a portrait to promote the film, "It's Me, Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise", at the Eddie Bauer Adventure House during the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, in Park City, Utah. (Victoria Will/Invision/AP)


    Lena Dunham on the ‘Thought Police’

    The creator and star of HBO’s Girls sat down at Sundance to discuss her Eloise documentary, Hannah’s Iowa mess, and her legion of haters.

    For female urbanites—and New Yorkers in particular—Eloise represented their wildest fantasy come to life: a free-spirited, wildly independent young girl who lives in the penthouse of the Plaza Hotel and embarks on an endless array of First World adventures.

    And for Lena Dunham, the series of children’s books was her everything. She obtained her first copy when she was just two years old, and consuming the colorful mini-tomes became an addiction.

  • NSFW

    My Granny The Escort

    A new documentary airing on the UK’s Channel 4 explores three mature British women who sell sex. How does their job affect their lives, and what compels men to pay for sex with seniors?

    They don’t call it “the oldest profession” for nothing.

    My Granny the Escort, a new documentary that aired this week on Channel 4 in the UK, aims to demystify “mature escorts”—women over the age of 60 who choose to have sex for money. Directed and narrated by Charlie Russell, the film opens with a chirpy, Kiessling-esque tune, followed by a vague title card that reads “Somewhere in England.” We’re then transported inside a cozy suburban home. A curvy woman, dressed entirely in black, gingerly ambles down the stairs, nearly tripping over the bottom step. This is Beverley, 64. She is a grandmother and a prostitute who operates out of her humble abode. Charlie’s scheduled interview, however, is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of a client 20 years her junior.

  • Israeli beauty pageant queen Linor Abargil was abducted and raped in Milan, Italy two months before being crowned Miss World in 1998. (Courtesy of Cecilia Peck)

    'Brave Miss World'

    Rape Survivor, Miss World, and Activist

    Linor Abargil was brutally raped six weeks before she won Miss World in 1998. Now, she’s a prominent women’s rights activist. The documentary Brave Miss World, about Abargil, premieres May 29 on Netflix.

    I was born in Netanya, Israel. I had a normal childhood and never thought about modeling. At 18, my boyfriend wanted to model, so I went to the agency with him. They sent him to business school, and gave me a contract. When a girl dropped out of the Miss Israel contest, I replaced her, and I won. All of a sudden you’re somebody. Not Linor from Netanya, but Linor Abargil: beauty queen.

    I went Milan to model, but I wasn’t comfortable there. I wanted to go home, so I asked the modeling agency for help. They introduced me to a Hebrew speaking travel agent they'd been working with for years who had a family in Israel. They said I could trust him. He looked like a nice, professional man. He showed me that there were no flights to Israel, but he promised to help me.

  • Ovation TV

    In Her Words

    Susan Boyle: Overcoming Asperger’s

    The bestselling singer and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ alum writes about her battle with the disorder.

    Simple Susan, mad, odd, bizarre. Names I have been called over the last 53 years of my life. 

    Born in a small Scottish village at a time where medicine and diagnosis was in its infancy and hadn’t made the great advancements that we see today, my parents were told not to expect much from me as they were led to believe I had been brain damaged at birth. 

  • Ten Times Ten LLC, Dyu D'Cunha


    Girls Rising in the Classroom

    A documentary film and social action campaign are shining a spotlight on the global movement to promote girls’ education.

    “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”—William Butler Yeats

    Imagine: You are 14-year-old girl living in Chakouri, a remote hill station in the Pithoragarh district, an area in the Kumaon Division of Uttarakhand, India. You wake to a view of mountains—the Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot. You dream of climbing, not the mountains you see in front of you but a different set of mountains. You dream of exploring the world, of becoming a teacher, of one day returning to help other women in your community find a way out of poverty and heavy labor.

  • Valeria Lukyanova. (Whitehotpix/Zuma)

    Welcome to the Dollhouse

    Meet the ‘Real-Life Barbie’

    Ukrainian model Valeria Lukyanova has gained a massive YouTube following for her doll-like appearance. Now she’s the subject of a new documentary.

    The world first met Ukrainian model and Internet sensation Valeria Lukyanova last year, with the help of a massively successful Jezebel feature and a fashion spread in V Magazine. It was Lukyanova’s small waist and anime eyes, that helped bring fashion shoot’s title, “Living Doll,” to life.

    Lukyanova was fully aware of the effect her appearance created on camera, telling V: “Every good-looking woman with fine features and a slim figure looks like a doll.”

  • AMFM

    Silver Screen

    From Anita To Afghanistan

    This summer promises a bumper crop of women's documentaries at three upcoming film festivals. Nina Strochlic reports.

    Few things benefit a documentary more than a powerful female character spitting back in the face of opposition. There’s no shortage of that this month, with three major summer film festivals debuting strong women for the silver screen: the Human Rights Film Festival (June 13-23, New York), the AFI Docs (June 19-23, Washington DC and Maryland), and the AMFM Fest (June 13-16, Coachella Valley, CA). Their films feature girls in the slums of Kenya striving to make it in the fashion world, a young musician returning to Afghanistan, an Indian poetess confined for 25 years, and an idealistic young lawyer challenging a powerful Supreme Court nominee. These are our picks for the best women-oriented documentaries to keep an eye on.