After furiously trying (and failing) to book tickets to Michelle Obama’s appearance at the Southbank Centre for her memoir Becoming, I was thrilled to hear that filmmaker Nadia Hallgren’s documentary of the 34-stop tour would be available on Netflix in mid-2020.
The biographical documentary has been classified by Netflix as both “feel-good” and “intimate.” I strongly agree with the former, particularly when watching clips from community events run to inspire and motivate young Black women – if the song “Girl on Fire” was a person, it would be Michelle Obama. However, I think that far from being “unplugged for the first time,” she still retained the public persona she was forced to create during Barack Obama’s presidency.
I also feel that an hour and a half would have been ample if the documentary had solely focussed on the book tour. The fact that it also covered Michelle’s backstory meant that I was left feeling as if I had been hastily dragged through key markers of her life, rather than learning about the moderators chosen for each leg of the tour and gaining an insight into what her day-to-day life looks like outside of the White House. Another thing to mention, is the contrast between the representation of Marian Shields Robinson, Michelle’s mother, in the book versus the documentary, as the latter seemed to gloss over the sacrifices that she made for her husband and children.
In all honesty, delving into Michelle’s history before she became First Lady of the United States deserves a ten part series, rather than a one-off documentary. Speaking of the tie between two different parts of her identity, she says: “So little of who I am happened in those eight years; so much more of who I am happened before.”