A Meaningful “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” hits Netflix tomorrow, December 18. I was lucky enough to see it last Friday, and I would like to recommend it! Highly!

Forgive me if I assume that you know that the original play was written by August Wilson and that you know his importance in American Theater.

Montage of Netflix screen shots with my name
My name was watermarked on all scenes so that I couldn’t record it and anonymously share it before its release.

And, you probably know that “Ma Rainey” is set in Chicago in the 1920’s and is the play deals with a recording audition for Ma and her band.

Of course, the real focus is “issues of race, art, religion and the historic exploitation of black recording artists by white producers”, as Wikipedia summaries https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_Rainey%27s_Black_Bottom .

There is a fair amount of music in the film, but it is not a happy musical!

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom poster

Viola Davis plays Ma, and Chadwick Boseman (the Black Panther) co-stars in his final film role.  They are amazing, and the rest of the cast is beyond solid. The adaption to film added to the feel of the time without being showy or in-your-face needlessly cinematic.

We are lucky to know the Executive Producer of the film, Constanza Romero.  She is August’s widow and the person in charge of his estate and its granting of rights to perform Wilson’s work.

She is also involved in “Giving Voice”, and just-released Netflix documentary following high school students competing in the annual August Wilson Monologue Contest. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giving_Voice

That 70-minute documentary is extremely strong and moving. It shows talented young people seeking escape from their often not good lives by immersing themselves into theater. Imagine the choice of either joining a gang or going into theater and being pushed out of your home by your family because of your choice.

“Giving Voice” is real, uplifting, depressing.

I strongly recommend that Netflix movie, too.

Please consider seeing “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Giving Voice”.

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