It’s appropriate that Chadwick Boseman‘s swan song would revolve around music.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the final film for the late actor, who passed away in August after a quiet four-year battle with colon cancer. It is produced and distributed by Netflix.
Based on the acclaimed play by legendary dramatist August Wilson, the film adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom comes from two-time Tony-winning director George C. Wolfe (Angels in America), a legend in his own right. It stars Academy Award winner Viola Davis in the title role.
Originally produced in 1982 as part of Wilson’s mammoth ten-play “Pittsburgh Cycle” that chronicled the 20th Century African-American experience, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is set in 1927 Chicago and deals with (as Wikipedia puts it) “issues of race, art, religion and the historic exploitation of black recording artists by white producers.”
Although Wilson took artistic liberties with the material, Ma Rainey was a real-life blues singer who helped to popularize the Black Bottom dance during the flapper era of the Jazz Age. Wilson’s story focuses on a recording session with Ma and her band, which includes a trumpeter named Levee (Boseman) who dreams of stepping out to form a band of his own. Levee is also Ma’s boyfriend.
Co-produced by Denzel Washington, Davis’s co-star and director of Fences (another August Wilson play), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom debuts on Netflix December 18, 2020. (Notably, Netflix’s usual addendum “in select theaters” does not currently appear on any of the film’s promos or social media pages.)
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