Can you Imagine how difficult it must be for friends and family to keep your secret until the end that you are in stage four of colon cancer and dying a slow death. Well, that is exactly what happened to Chadwick Boseman and his support foundation as he was filming his final movie. We’ll get back to this beautiful soul momentarily.
August Wilson was a playwright, essayist, novelist and a voice of the American civil rights movement. Most known for his 1953 novel go tell it on the mountain, for his insight on race, spirituality, and humanity. And now 8 more of his plays are being brought to the big screen by Denzel Washington over the next 5 years. Fences being the first one released late 2016. The second in this series is Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. This is one of a ten play cycle chronicling the Pittsburgh experience.
Ma Rainey also known as “the mother of the blues” takes center stage as her and her band comes to a studio on the south side of Chicago to record an album for her newly signed contract with Paramount Records. As they arrive in Chicago, she has an ongoing struggle with her manager with how things should be done. But, that ends up being the least of the conflict in this unabashed film of how Jewish record labels and managers took advantage of black talent, regardless of how prolific they are. But Ma is no pushover and she lays down the law in how she gets things done.
The most important protagonist in this film is Levee (Chadwick Boseman), a young and talented trumpeter who thinks he knows the ins and outs of everything. He is by far and away the youngest member of the band and also the most flashy which keeps him on the radar of his bandmates. Levee is also dealing with many personal issues which tend to cloud his judgement and test Ma’s last nerve.
There is a scene in this movie that is so gripping, and so traumatic, that you cannot help but sit on the edge of your seat through Levee’s “coming to Jesus moment.” It just grips your very soul.
This movie is filled with laughter and tears for many reasons, but for me, it was because this was the final time Boseman ever went on film. He died just weeks after filming. Most people know him from his role in Black Panther, which was a good movie if you’re into that sort of fantasy realm films, but in no way did it show the depths that Boseman possessed like Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom featured, up close and personal.
Chadwicks family and closest friends never leaked a single drop of information to any outlet about the state of his health. Think about that in today’s era of technology and social media. Now one knew until he passed away peacefully, surrounded by friends and family on August 28, 2020. Just another addition to a long list to the argument of why 2020 might go down as the worst year in modern history.
Check out Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom streaming on Netflix. You will not regret it.