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Michelle Obama’s book tour documented for Becoming film

Michelle Obama’s tour to promote her best-selling 2018 memoir Becoming has been turned into a documentary film for Netflix.

Becoming, a behind-the-scenes look at the former first lady’s 34-city tour, will be released on May 6, Obama and Netflix said in a statement on Monday.

The tour in 2019 and 2020 included public events in concert stadiums and large venues across the United States, Canada and Europe, where Obama held conversations with the audience and the likes of actress Sarah Jessica Parker, Gayle King and Stephen Colbert. Managed by the concert promoter Live Nation, the series had the scale of a rock tour, with a string of dates at sold-out arenas. 

“Those months I spent travelling — meeting and connecting with people in cities across the globe — drove home the idea that what we share in common is deep and real and can’t be messed with,” Obama said.

“I treasure the memories and that sense of connection now more than ever, as we struggle together to weather this pandemic, as we care for our loved ones, tend to our communities, and try to keep up with work and school while coping with huge amounts of loss, confusion, and uncertainty.”

Nadia Hallgren, a veteran documentary cinematographer making her feature directorial debut in Becoming, trailed Obama on the book tour from city to city.

“She moves quickly and I had to learn to move with her,” Hallgren said. 

The documentary is part of a 2018 deal between Netflix and the Higher Ground production company formed by former U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife to produce content for the streaming service.

Their first release American Factory, about auto workers laid off in Ohio and directed by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, won the Oscar for best documentary in February. Higher Ground was also behind the acclaimed recently released documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, by James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham. 

Michelle Obama’s Becoming, centre, is seen on display at Munro’s Books in Victoria, B.C., in 2019. The memoir was the bestselling print book in Canada in 2018 and in the top 10 most borrowed books of 2019 at libraries across the country. (Munro’s Books)

Bestselling memoir

Becoming, in which Obama wrote about motherhood, politics, and finding her voice, has sold more than 11 million copies and been translated into more than 20 languages. 

The former first lady acknowledged the timing is difficult for a film about community, and that social distancing doesn’t come naturally to her. “I’m a hugger,” she said.

During the pandemic, Obama has read children’s books to kids stuck at home in an online series titled Mondays with Michelle Obama

“I’m here for you,” she said in her statement. “And I know you are here for one another. 

“Empathy is our lifeline here. It’s what will get us to the other side,” she added.

“Let’s use it to redirect our attention toward what matters most, reconsider our priorities, and find ways to better remake the world in the image of our hopes.”

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