Over the course of her eight years in the White House, Michelle Obama became more than a first lady. Unlike most people in public office, and despite the towering status of her husband, Mrs. Obama became increasingly more relatable. When the Obama Administration officially came to a close on a blistering cold day in January 2017, many people felt gutted, not simply because of what the political stage had become, but also because it felt like we were losing some dear friends.
Thankfully, the former First Lady did not leave us to fester in our feelings for too long. Just two years after leaving the White House, she released her New York Times Best-Selling memoir, Becoming, introducing us to an even more intimate side of a woman who was born on the South Side of Chicago and became a pivotal figure in modern history.
While many of us had the opportunity to read Becoming, tickets to the former lawyer’s whirlwind 34-date book tour were much more elusive to come back. Thankfully with Netflix and through the lens of director Nadia Hallgren, Mrs. Obama is extending her hand to us once again, to embrace us all and to remind us, that goodwill is still vibrant amongst us.
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I’m excited to let you know that on May 6, @Netflix will release BECOMING, a documentary film directed by @nadiahallgren that looks at my life and the experiences I had while touring following the release of my memoir. Those months I spent traveling—meeting and connecting with people in cities across the globe—drove home the idea that what we share in common is deep and real and can’t be messed with. In groups large and small, young and old, unique and united, we came together and shared stories, filling those spaces with our joys, worries, and dreams. We processed the past and imagined a better future. In talking about the idea of ‘becoming,’ many of us dared to say our hopes out loud. I treasure the memories and that sense of connection now more than ever, as we struggle together to weather this pandemic, as we care for our loved ones, and cope with loss, confusion, and uncertainty. It’s hard these days to feel grounded or hopeful, but I hope that like me, you’ll find joy and a bit of respite in what Nadia has made. Because she’s a rare talent, someone whose intelligence and compassion for others comes through in every frame she shoots. Most importantly, she understands the meaning of community, the power of community, and her work is magically able to depict it. As many of you know, I’m a hugger. My whole life, I’ve seen it as the most natural and equalizing gesture one human can make toward another—the easiest way of saying, “I’m here for you.” And this is one of the toughest parts of our new reality: Things that once felt simple—going to see a friend, sitting with someone who is hurting, embracing someone new—are now not simple at all. But I’m here for you. And I know you are here for one another. Even as we can no longer safely gather we need to stay open and able to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Empathy is our lifeline here. Let’s use it to redirect our attention toward what matters most, and find ways to better remake the world in the image of our hopes. Even in hard times, our stories help cement our values and strengthen our connections. Sharing them shows us the way forward. I love and miss you all. #IAmBecoming.
Michelle Obama sprinkles magic throughout ‘Becoming’
Becoming opens with the former first lady gleefully greeted one of her secret service officers before turning on Kirk Franklin’s “A God Like You.” From there, the film takes off running. At its base, Becoming is a film that follows Mrs. Obama on her 2019 book tour. However, the gems that are sprinkled throughout infuse the film with a special kind of magic.
Each night, the Princeton University alum takes the stage engaging with commentators like Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Stephen Colbert among others. While speaking she provides anecdotes not simply from her time on the campaign and in the White House, but from her early years growing up in a loving working-class family, attending Princeton and Havard Law School, and losing her father as a young woman. What she tries to impress upon the viewer is something that she states early on in the film — so little of what defines her occurred during those faithful eight years.
‘Becoming’ reinforces the themes of Michelle Obama’s memoir
Though the film has a zippy 89 minute run time, the Becoming doesn’t simply narrow in on Mrs. Obama, there are the young girls who join her community events across the country, a group of Indigenous Americans living on a reservation, her head of security Allen, and her dear friend and chief of Staff, Mellissa Winter, who has been by her side since 2008. While there seems to be a cloud of invisibly covering many of us in society at this time, Becoming assures us time and time again that we are seen.
If you’ve read Becoming, then much of this documentary isn’t revelatory. However, to witness Mrs. Obama, her husband, former President Barack Obama, their daughters Sasha and Malia Obama, her mother, Marien Robinson and her brother, Craig Robinson speak about her and connect with her brings another layer of warmth and texture to her journey.
Michelle Obama reclaims her personal narrative in ‘Becoming’
During her time in the White House, the former first lady was deeply vilified in the pres, and she speaks openly about what that racial and sexist attacks did to her. Yet, it’s not a space she chooses to dwell in. Instead Becoming, with its soundtrack sprinkled with Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar becomes very much about reclaiming her narrative and her time, proving that we as citizens of this country can as well.
Becoming is currently streaming on Netflix.
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