Move over Tiger King, there's a new documentary coming to Netflix. The streaming provider announced Monday that the latest result of its partnership with the Obamas' production company, Higher Ground Productions, follows the former first lady as she shares deeply personal stories from her life while on tour promoting her recently published memoir. Michelle Obama's Netflix documentary Becoming is an intimate look into a moment of transition and "profound change" for the former first lady.
Becoming takes viewers behind the scenes of Obama's nationwide book tour, which saw the former first lady speak to groups large and small in 34 different cities. But, according to Obama, Becoming doesn't simply depict her efforts to promote her memoir of the same name. Rather, it's a look at the connections forged along the way.
"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," she said in a statement shared by Netflix. "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."
It was an experience Obama said she won't soon forget. "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, tend to our communities, and try to keep up with work and school while coping with huge amounts of loss, confusion, and uncertainty," she continued. "Even in hard times, maybe especially in hard times, our stories help cement our values and strengthen our connections. Sharing them shows us the way forward."
While the documentary centers around Obama's unique ability to bring a sense of intimacy and connection to even the largest of arenas, that reportedly wasn't always the filmmaker's plan. "I intended on making a film about her current experience — where she is in this moment and the way she's reflecting on the entirety of her life, not just her years in the White House," director Nadia Hallgren said in a statement shared by Netflix.
Early on in filming, however, Hallgren said she began to notice the effect Obama had on those she met. "What I noticed most was how she listens and interacts with people and how they react to her," Hallgren said. "There’s a magic that happens when people meet her — an afterglow and a boost in confidence. I wanted to translate this experience to the screen."
But filming a documentary about a public figure as well known as Obama doesn't come without challenges. Hallgren admitted that the significance and impact of Obama and her legacy as the country's first black First Lady weighed heavily on her as she began working on the project. "It was something I knew I had to break through quickly," Hallgren said. "But as Mrs. Obama began to speak about having the same doubts, the same fears, the same insecurities we're conditioned to ask ourselves everyday, it felt as if she was guiding me without knowing it."
While Hallgren had initially set out to film Obama's book tour, she found herself capturing moments of shared humanity, of breaking down divides and coming together over shared stories and experiences. "That is what Becoming is at its core: understanding that when you share the same fears, doubts, and joys as someone like Michelle Obama, all of our stories have equal power," Hallgren said.
Becoming is expected to begin streaming on Netflix on May 6.