The Obamas are taking over your living room.
As we reported last May, Barack and Michelle Obama signed a multi-year agreement with Netflix to produce new films and series under their Higher Ground banner, even after being approached by both Apple and Amazon. It was a coup for the streaming giant then, and it’s certainly one now as they face stiff competition from even more outlets such as Disney+.
Today, Higher Ground unveiled their first slate of projects, which include three features and four series. Among the major highlights include a new nonfiction series based on Michael Lewis’ The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, a feature film based on Pulitzer Prize David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, and Sundance-winning documentary American Factory.
“We created Higher Ground to harness the power of storytelling. That’s why we couldn’t be more excited about these projects,” President Obama said. “Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect and inspire us all.”
Other titles include Bloom, a post-WWII dramatic series from Academy Award-winner Callie Khouri; Overlooked, a scripted anthology series adapted from The New York Times’ obituary column of the same name; Crip Camp, a feature-length documentary on the ’70s revolution that set forward the disability rights movement; and Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents, a half-hour series aimed at pre-schoolers to tell the story behind their foods.
“We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it’s all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives,” Michelle Obama said. “We think there’s something here for everyone — moms and dads, curious kids and anyone simply looking for an engaging, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can’t wait to see these projects come to life — and the conversations they’ll generate.”
Read more on each project below. Currently, there are no release dates attached to any title, as a few are in various stages of development, but Netflix plans to roll them out over the course of the next couple of years.
American Factory was acquired by Netflix in association with Higher Ground Productions out of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Directing Award: U.S. Documentary. From Participant Media, the film is directed by Academy Award®-nominated and Emmy Award®-winners Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, A Lion in the House, Seeing Red). The acclaimed film takes a deep dive into a post-industrial Ohio, where a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant and hires two thousand blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America. The producers are Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert, and Julie Parker Benello.
Bloom is an upstairs/downstairs drama series set in the world of fashion in post-WWII New York City that depicts barriers faced by women and by people of color in an era marked by hurdles but also tremendous progress. Bloom is written and executive produced by Academy Award-winner® Callie Khouri (Nashville, Thelma and Louise, the upcoming Aretha Franklin movie at MGM), from an idea developed by Khouri, writer-director Clement Virgo (The Book Of Negroes, The Wire, Empire) and novelist and producer Juliana Maio (City of the Sun). Higher Ground Productions, Khouri, Virgo and Maio will executive produce the series.
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom
Higher Ground is producing a feature film adaptation of author David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, for which he won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in History. The New York Times called the book “an ambitious and empathetic biography of a major American life.”
Adapted from The New York Times’ ongoing obituary column Overlooked, telling the stories of remarkable people whose deaths were not reported by the newspaper, Higher Ground is developing Overlooked as a scripted anthology series with producers Liza Chasin of 3dot Productions and Joy Gorman Wettels of Anonymous Content.
Listen To Your Vegetables and Eat Your Parents
For family programming, Listen To Your Vegetables and Eat Your Parents will be a half-hour preschool series from creators Jeremy Konner (Drunk History) and Erika Thormahlen. The show will take young children and their families around the globe on an adventure that tells us the story of our food.
From Michael Lewis, the best-selling author of The Big Short and Moneyball, and based on his book The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, Fifth Risk, a non-fiction series, will aim to portray the importance of unheralded work done by everyday heroes guiding our government and safeguarding our nation.
Crip Camp is a feature-length documentary film in production that is supported by the Sundance Institute and acquired earlier this year by Higher Ground and Netflix. Just down the road from Woodstock, in the early 1970s, a parallel revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers that would transform young lives, and America forever by helping to set in motion the disability rights movement. The film is directed by former camper Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham. Producers include Newnham, LeBrecht and Sara Bolder, with executive producer Howard Gertler.