“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” director George C. Wolfe has set his return engagement with Netflix, directing “Rustin” for the streamer, and President Barack Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions.
The film tells the story of gay, civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who organized the 1963 March on Washington. President Obama posthumously awarded Rustin, an advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. and participant in the “First Freedom Rides,” with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Dustin Lance Black, who won the Academy Award for best original screenplay for 2008’s “Milk,” will write the film and serve as a producer.
Priya Swaminathan and Tonia Davis will produce for Higher Ground Productions, alongside Academy Award winner Bruce Cohen (“American Beauty”).
The Obamas’ production company, founded in 2018, recently released their upcoming slate of fiction, non-fiction, and kids & family films and series in partnership with Netflix, which include “Exit West,” “Satellite,” “Tenzing” and “The Young Wife.” Higher Ground Productions’ first release, “American Factory,” won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2019, and its latest doc, “Crip Camp,” was named to the 2021 Oscars shortlist for documentaries. Higher Grounds’ documentary “Becoming,” which followed Michelle Obama’s 2019 book tour, earned four Emmy nominations. The company’s first podcast, “The Michelle Obama Podcast,” has the biggest Spotify Original launch in the company’s history.
A five-time Tony Award winner, Wolfe has guided the film adaptation of August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” to become a major awards contender, garnering individual awards attention for its leads Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman, plus a SAG Award nomination for the film’s ensemble (including Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, Michael Potts and Jonny Coyne.) Wolfe is also a previous DGA and National Board of Review winner (both for 2005’s “Lackawanna Blues”).
Wolfe is represented by CAA and Loeb & Loeb.