The first project backed by Michelle and Barack Obama’s production company has begun streaming on Netflix.
American Factory – a documentary about an Ohio car glass factory run by a Chinese investor – was shown at the Sundance film festival and piqued the interest of the former US president and his wife.
Netflix worked in partnership with the Obamas’ company Higher Ground to acquire the film from Participant Media earlier this year.
A good story gives you the chance to better understand someone else’s life. It can help you find common ground. And it’s why Michelle and I were drawn to Higher Ground’s first film, American Factory. Take a look at our conversation with the directors, and check it out on Netflix. pic.twitter.com/KzkYFqjrFV
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 21, 2019
Filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert said they were ecstatic about the support, and have been quick to dissuade anyone from the idea that the film is delivering a message either for or against any politician.
“They got what we were trying to do, which is to tell a story that sort of transcends the year-to-year politics,” Mr Bognar said.
Mr Bognar and Ms Reichert, who live in the Dayton, Ohio, area where Fuyao Glass replaced an abandoned General Motors plant, said they were initially interested in exploring a culture clash, but the film deepened into a story about the rights of workers, globalisation and automation.
Barack and I want to help more people see their own story in someone else’s. It’s why we started Higher Ground Productions, and it’s what we talked about with Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, who directed @afactoryfilm. Check out their documentary, now streaming on @Netflix. https://t.co/8xjX7t9HL4
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) August 21, 2019
The name of Higher Ground flashes by in the opening credits, but the Obamas themselves are not mentioned anywhere.
Netflix released a brief clip on Wednesday of the Obamas discussing their interest in the project with the filmmakers.
“One of the many things I love about this film … is that you let people tell their own story,” the former first lady said.
“American Factory doesn’t come in with a perspective. It’s not an editorial. I mean, you truly let people speak for themselves, and that is a powerful thing that you don’t always see happen.”
Former US president Obama said that they want people to look outside of their own experiences to understand the lives of others.
That “is what a good story does,” he said. “It helps all of us feel some solidarity with each other.”
Ms Reichert said she has seen some commentary that the Obamas were interested in the film as a criticism of president Trump, and said that was stupid.
“It has zero to do with Trump or Obama, or the political scene at all,” she said. “It’s about the lives of average working people in the heartland.
“It’s really a close up and intimate look at what globalisation looks like.”