Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a 2020 American drama film directed by George C. Wolfe and written by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, based on the play of the same name by August Wilson. The film, and its source play, focus on Ma Rainey, an influential blues singer, and dramatizes a turbulent recording session in 1920s Chicago.
Produced by Denzel Washington, Todd Black, and Dany Wolf, the film stars Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman, with Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, and Michael Potts in supporting roles. The project was originally announced alongside Washington’s Fences in 2013 as part of his ten-picture deal with HBO. The adaptation eventually moved to Netflix, and filming commenced in Pittsburgh in 2019. Boseman died during post-production in August 2020, making Black Bottom his final film appearance; the film is dedicated to his memory.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom began a limited theatrical release on November 25, 2020, before beginning to stream on Netflix on December 18. The film was universally acclaimed by critics, who lauded the performances of Davis and Boseman, as well as the costumes and production values. It was named as one of the ten best films of 2020 by the American Film Institute. The film received five Academy Award nominations at the 93rd Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Davis, and Best Actor for Boseman. Additionally, the film received eight Critics’ Choice Movie Award nominations and nine NAACP Image Award nominations, including Outstanding Motion Picture, with Davis and Boseman both winning lead acting awards. Davis and Boseman also won lead acting awards for their performances at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, making history as the first Black actors to win in leading categories in the same year,bo th received nominations at the Golden Globes, with Boseman posthumously winning Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama.