If you thought the Obamas would be taking a break anytime soon, you haven't been paying attention! The former first lady has been booked and busy since her White House exit, and her husband is joining in on the fun. In March 2018, it was announced that the former US president and Michelle were in talks to produce a collection of series exclusively for Netflix, and in May of that same year, the two finalized a multiyear agreement to produce a diverse mix of content under their Higher Ground Productions banner. Now, almost a year later, we're finally learning about the seven projects, currently in various stages of development.
"We created Higher Ground to harness the power of storytelling. That's why we couldn't be more excited about these projects," Barack said in a statement released by the streaming giant. "Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won't just entertain, but will educate, connect, and inspire us all."
"We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it's all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives," Michelle added. "We think there's something here for everyone — moms and dads, curious kids, and anyone simply looking for an engageing, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can't wait to see these projects come to life — and the conversations they'll generate."
The seven projects are a range of fiction and nonfiction productions that include scripted, unscripted, and documentary series. There are also full-length features and documentaries set to be released over the next several years. Check out the projects ahead!
This is a documentary that takes a deep dive into a postindustrial Ohio, where a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant and hires 2,000 blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America. American Factory debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the directing award: US documentary and was acquired by Netflix and Higher Ground Productions. From Participant Media, the film is directed by Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, A Lion in the House, Seeing Red). Bognar, Reichert, Jeff Reichert, and Julie Parker Benello all serve as producers of the film.
The series is described as an upstairs/downstairs drama set in the world of fashion in post-WWII New York City that depicts barriers faced by women and people of colour in an era marked by hurdles but also tremendous progress. Bloom is written and executive produced by Academy Award winner Callie Khouri (Nashville, Thelma and Louise, the upcoming Aretha Franklin movie at MGM) from an idea developed by Khouri, writer-director Clement Virgo (The Book of Negroes, The Wire, Empire), and novelist and producer Juliana Maio (City of the Sun). Higher Ground Productions, Khouri, Virgo, and Maio will executive produce the series.
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom
This is a feature film adaptation of author David W. Blight's Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom — for which he won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in History — that The New York Times called "an ambitious and empathetic biography of a major American life."
This scripted anthology series is adapted from The New York Times' ongoing obituary column of the same name. The series will tell the stories of remarkable people whose deaths were not reported by the newspaper, with producers Liza Chasin of 3dot Productions and Joy Gorman Wettels of Anonymous Content.
Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents
This is a half-hour preschool series from creators Jeremy Konner (Drunk History) and Erika Thormahlen. The show will take young children and their families around the globe on an adventure that tells us the story of our food.
From Michael Lewis, the bestselling author of The Big Short and Moneyball, and based on his book The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, the nonfiction series will aim to show the importance of unheralded work done by everyday heroes guiding our government and safeguarding our nation.
The feature-length documentary film is supported by the Sundance Institute and was acquired earlier this year by Higher Ground and Netflix. Just down the road from Woodstock, in the early 1970s, a parallel revolution blossomed in a ramshackle Summer camp for disabled teenagers that would transform young lives, and America, forever by helping to set in motion the disability rights movement. The film is directed by former camper Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham. Producers include Newnham, LeBrecht, and Sara Bolder, with executive producer Howard Gertler.