Barack and Michelle Obama screen new documentary at Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival


The new documentary Descending had its screening at the 20th Annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, and the screening was accompanied by a surprise appearance by the former president barack obama with the former First Lady michelle obama. The two appeared on stage to join executive producer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, director Margaret Brown and festival programmers Stephanie and Floyd Rance.

After the screening, Thompson and Brown would talk more about the film in a Q&A session. They were joined by producers Essie Chambers and Kyle Martin, co-producer Dr. Kern Jackson and film subjects Joycelyn Davis and Rose “Veda” Tunstall. Historian Dr. Jessica B. Harris moderated the session.


Since leaving the White House, the Obamas have moved into content production through an exclusive deal with Netflix. This includes Descending, produced by the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground Productions. Other projects introduced by the Obamas as part of this deal include Michelle Obama’s children’s cooking show Waffles + Mochi plus Barack Obama’s Emmy-nominated docuseries Our major national parks.

Related: Netflix Doc Details The True Story Of Woodstock ’99 And The Protests That Followed

Descendant has already done well on the festival circuit

A Higher Ground and Night Tide production, in association with Two One Five Entertainment, Descending was the winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Set to begin streaming this fall on Netflix, you can read the film’s official synopsis below.

Documentary filmmaker Margaret Brown (“The Order of Myths”, “The Great Invisible”) returns to her hometown of Mobile, Alabama to document the search and historic discovery of The Clotilda, the last known vessel to arrive illegally in the United States After a century of secrecy and speculation, the discovery of the ship in 2019 draws attention to the descendant community of Africatown and presents a moving portrait of a community grappling with and actively fighting to preserve its heritage while looking at what justice looks like today.

Back in 2018, when the Obamas first signed their deal with Netflix, they talked about the kind of content they were looking forward to bringing to the streaming platform. The goal was to shine a light on those who might otherwise not have the opportunity to have their story told. As a statement by Barack Obama noted at the time:

“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was meeting so many fascinating people from all walks of life and helping them share their experiences with a wider audience. That’s why Michelle and I are so happy to partner with Netflix – we hope to cultivate and organize the talented, inspiring and creative voices that are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between people, and help them share their stories with the world.

Michelle added her own statement.

“Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, make us think differently about the world around us, and help us open our minds and hearts to others. Netflix’s unparalleled service is a natural fit for the types of stories we want to share, and we can’t wait to begin this exciting new partnership.

Descending is coming to Netflix this fall.


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