Race, music, strong women at the heart of the film ‘Ma Rainey’

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The film drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” may be set in the United States that was racially segregated in the 1920s and was written almost 40 years ago, but there is much to be said about about today.

With Viola Davis as black blues singer Ma Rainey and the late Chadwick Boseman as a hot-headed trumpet player, the film arrives on Netflix on Friday as Hollywood and the United States engage in systematic racism.

“The reason the film is rising today is because racism was not destroyed. It’s just come to fruition, ”said Davis.

“You can’t go through 400 years of systematic racism and policies and practices and not have it today in education, how women are paid and how black people are paid, and so deserves to be seen, ”she said.

“If Rainey’s Black Bottom” takes place on a hot day in Chicago in 1927 at a tight recording session where the diva-like singer engages in a battle of will with her white manager and her band over on money and control of her music.

Davis, who won the supporting actress in 2017 and is expected to be named next year, said she saw Ma as a liberated woman “meaning she was not a woman at the time for she was a woman who had no knowledge of her worth. ”

Adapted from the August Wilson play of the same name, “Ma Rainey” was filmed in July 2019, a year before street protests erupted across the country over the killing of black people by the police.

“For me, (the film) there is a conversation about how we can have a future so that we can deal with, and heal, and deal with the sins and divisions of the past. gone? That’s the American conversation for me, ”said director George C. Wolfe.

Davis said the same conversation also applied to the entertainment industry, which is under the pressure of increasing diversity behind and in front of the camera.

“A lot of our art, a lot of our imagination, a lot of our ideas that are not seen as well as our white peers. So there are a lot of things that are still changing because they haven’t changed, ”she said.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Edited by Nick Zieminski