Barack and Michelle Obama attended the opening night showing of the Netflix documentary “Descendant.” Friday marked the opening of the 2022 Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, which kicked off with great pomp and circumstance. “Hail to the Chief” accompanied the opening night showing of the Netflix documentary “Descendant.”
As part of Netflix’s acquisition of worldwide rights to the Sundance award-winning documentary in January, the Obamas’ production company Higher Ground signed on to present the feature alongside the streaming service and Participant. Earlier this year, the U.S. special jury awarded the documentary the creative vision award at Sundance.
Africans in Africatown, a small community in Alabama, share their stories as descendants of the Clotilda, the last known ship that brought enslaved Africans to the United States. The documentary is directed by Margaret Brown. A capital offense was abolished for African slave trading 40 years before the ship arrived in America.
The film’s logline describes descendants of Clotilda’s survivors reclaiming their story after a century of secrecy and speculation. As the former president and first lady spoke for nearly 15 minutes, they stressed the importance of uncovering untold histories and their efforts to support projects like “Descendant,” which do just that.
“We watched this film and immediately said, ‘This is why we’re doing Higher Ground.’ Because we talk about nothing when we speak about our history as Black people. Getting anything from our elders is impossible, isn’t it? The two of us don’t know anything,” Michelle said.
There is nothing known about grandma and grandpa’s divorce because our mothers don’t speak of menopause. There’s just no communication between us. In this film, we’re reminded of what stories have power, and there’s a lot of psychology around it. The truth must be told.”
She continued, “We need to share our stories with our young people. This film shows us that our stories are what make us visible. We cannot follow that tradition of keeping our pain silent. Also, I thought this might be the beginning of a storytelling process because guess what we have?
Our phones are everywhere, and we use them every day. As well, we should encourage our young people to reach out to their elders. As an alternative to taking photos of your food and the latest TikTok whatever it is, how about talking with grandma and great-grandma and asking them those questions.”
As part of their joke, they also mentioned Martha’s Vineyard as their vacation home. As she was introduced by “Descendant” executive producer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Michelle exclaimed, “Surprise!” She lauded the festival’s founders, Floyd and Stephanie Rance. Barack said that he couldn’t spend a month on the island if he returned to the White House. As Barack reflected on Africatown’s importance, his speech turned serious.
As we left the White House, Michelle and I discussed what we wanted to do after the presidency. As we were campaigning for office and taking office, one thing we learned was the importance of stories and who tells them, what stories are valid and what stories are discounted,” Barack said.
As a result of Rances’ work, we have been able to lift stories that have become lost in time, which is one of the powers of this festival. The stories of everyone matter to us. Everyone has a sacred story that motivates and moves them. The nostalgic feeling doesn’t just make us nostalgic; it propels us forward.”
Brown, Kyle Martin, and Essie Chambers produced it. Two One Five Entertainment’s Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Shawn Gee, and Zarah Zohlman are executive producers, along with Participant Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann.
As part of the sold-out event, Brown, Chambers, Martin, and co-producer Dr. Kern Jackson participated in a Q&A about the doc with Joycelyn Davis and Veda Tunstall, both descendants of Clotilda. A moderated conversation was held by Dr. Jessica Harris.
Despite Variety’s exclusive announcement last month, the Obamas’ showing at the festival was a pleasant surprise. On Saturday afternoon, Sharpton will sit for a conversation about the documentary “Loudmouth,” which tells the story of his life of activism and protest.
Also in the audience were Stacey Abrams, former Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Rev. Al Sharpton. A standing ovation greeted the trio of political powerhouses after a shoutout from the pre-show DJ. There will be a packed schedule of independent films, documentaries, panel discussions, and other special events at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, an Oscar-qualifying festival in the short film category that runs from Aug. 5-13.
At this year’s fest, Tyler Perry will discuss his upcoming Netflix film “A Jazzman’s Blues” and Kasi Lemmons will receive the Legacy Spotlight for her classic film “Eve’s Bayou”. The cast of Peacock’s “The Best Man: The Final Chapters” will also appear, including Regina Hall, Reginald Hudlin, Michael Ealy, and Patina Miller.
Anne Peterson is a budding writer who is interested in Hollywood movies. She covers most of the trending news in Hollywood for the website MovieThop. She always has a curious zest about the celeb’s lives. She now writes and keeps the audience updated.
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