Attendees at the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival were pleasantly surprised when former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made a guest appearance to promote their documentary Descendant, reports Indie Wire.
After the film premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, the Obamas acquired the documentary for Netflix through their company, Higher Ground Productions.
According to the synopsis of the film, Descendant tells the story of a search to find the remains of the Clotilda, the last slave ship to arrive in America. While the ship was burned outside of Africatown, Alabama in 1860, many descendants of the people forcibly brought over from Africa still live in the area. Margaret Brown’s documentary focuses on telling the stories of those families, using the search for the shipwreck as a catalyst to examine the deeply rooted traumatic effects of slavery in America.”
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who’s also an executive producer of the documentary, introduced the Obamas, and they spoke about how the film is a reflection of their vision for Higher Ground.
“When we screened this… we looked at it and immediately thought, ‘This is why we’re doing Higher Ground,’” Michelle Obama said. “Because what we know about our history as Black people, we don’t talk about nothing. We can’t get anything out of our elders, can we? We don’t know anything,”
Barack Obama noted the importance of telling the story of Africatown.
“When we left the White House, Michelle and I talked about the things we wanted to do post-presidency,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff going on, but one of the things that we learned both when we were campaigning for office and taking office was the importance of stories and who tells stories and what stories are valid and what stories are discounted.”
“And it’s one of the powers of this festival, and the work that the Rances have done is to lift up stories that too often have been lost in the flow of time,” he added. “Because we believe that everybody’s stories matter. Everybody’s got a sacred story that motivates us, moves us. It’s not just a matter of nostalgia, it powers us into the present and the future.”
Descendant will premiere on Oct. 21 on Netflix and in select theaters.