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In 'Becoming,' a starring role for Michelle Obama

2 years 5 months 21 hours ago Monday, May 04 2020 May 4, 2020 May 04, 2020 6:44 PM May 04, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — In the backstage hallways of Washington D.C.’s Capital One Arena, Michelle Obama walks arm-in-arm with her husband, Barack Obama. She has just finished the third stop on what would be a 34-city book tour of such unprecedented scale that it almost resembled a Beyoncé concert tour.

Nadia Hallgren’s camera is trailing them when Michelle Obama, perhaps looking for reassurance, asks the former president: “Does it seem like a show that you’d like to see?”

Hallgren’s documentary, “Becoming,” is — more so than we’ve seen before — the Michelle Obama Show. It captures the former first lady, in settings both public and intimate, navigating her post-White House life, interacting with fans and generally fostering a spirit of positivity, self-belief and hope that few beside her husband are capable of inspiring.

“My life is starting to be mine again,” she says in the film. “There’s another chapter waiting for me out there.”

“Becoming,” which debuts Wednesday on Netflix, is an extension of her 2018 best-selling memoir of the same name and a kind of authorized filmic portrait of Obama. It’s produced by Higher Ground Productions, the film company founded by the Obamas.

Before now, Higher Ground has backed well-received, socially-minded documentaries about American labor (the Oscar-winning “American Factory” ) and the disability rights movement (the acclaimed Sundance-winner “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution”). It’s been an auspicious, award-winning beginning for Higher Ground, the most ambitious post-White House dive into Hollywood of any former U.S. president. With “Becoming,” one half of Higher Ground now steps in front of the camera, too.

The movie, itself, was a secret until last week when Netflix announced is upcoming premiere. Hallgren typically worked with small crews or just by herself. Much of “Becoming” takes place either in arenas crowded with cameras or in private settings — the back seat of an SUV, the childhood home of Obama — so few would have spotted her.

“I think if people saw me, it probably looked very unofficial,” chuckles Hallgren.

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