Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Drama/Musical | English | 94 minutes


In a music recording studio in Chicago, a band of musicians await the arrival of their leader, Ma Rainey, known as the “Mother of the Blues.” Tension ensues as the hot-headed and overly ambitious cornet player, Levee, pushes the white producer, Mel Sturdyvant, to help him get a record deal featuring the songs he’s composed.  The group then discovers that the finished recording  did not take  due to a technical malfunction. The group believes that Levee sabotaged the recording and harsh words are exchanged. Ma fires Levee believing his ambition  detrimental to the band. Levee suffers a mental breakdown. When  band member, Toledo, accidentally steps on Levee’s brand-new shoes, this misstep becomes tragic.  Sturdyvant does record Levee’s songs but with a band consisting entirely of white men.

Chadwick Boseman (Levee Green) / Viola Davis (Ma Rainey) / Jonny Coyne (Mel Sturdyvant) / Glynn Turman (Toledo)
Why Stream This Film?
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the mesmerizing story of Black American history as told with the Blues.  As Ma Rainey stated, “Blues help you get out of bed in the morning. You get up knowing you ain’t alone.”
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 98%
  • Metacritic Score: 87
  • Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Actor (Chadwick Boseman); Best Actress (Viola Davis)
  • Boston Society of Film Critics: Winner, Best Ensemble Cast
  • Chicago Film Critics Association: Winner, Best Actor (Chadwick Boseman); Nominated, Best Actress (Viola Davis)
  • American Film Institute: Listed, Ten Best Films of 2020 

Now streaming on:

“MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM saves its most emotional moments for Levee, and Boseman devours them with a ferocity that sears the screen. I know it’s just acting, but for me, reality intervened and I saw something transcendent.”
Odie Henderson

“There in the singular music of Wilson’s language is a vehicle for the delivery of vernacular poetry as durable and adaptable as the blues itself. It’s also definitive because it will be hard, from now on, to imagine a Ma Rainey other than Davis, or a Levee to compare with Boseman.” 
A.O. Scott

The New York Times

“MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM is a celebration of language – Wilson’s colorful tapestries with his words – and of music’s transformative power.” 
Moira Macdonald

The Seattle Times

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