Southside With You is a love story that tells the story of the first date between Michelle and Barack Obama. The year was 1989, long before he became president and she First Lady. The film was one of the most popular at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and Miramax and Roadside Attractions are buying the film for a reported $2 million on February 12. The re-imagined first date movie will appear in North American theaters later this year.
— Indiewire (@indiewire) February 12, 2016
Per a Hollywood Reporter interview, the Southside With You introduces Richard Tanne in his directorial debut, and stars Tika Sumpter as Michelle and Parker Sawyers as Barack, then known as Barry. Tanne got the idea for the film from reading a story about the future First Lady and future president’s first date. He used documents in the public domain and first-hand information that he scoured from the internet and wrote a synopsis of the film. When Sumpter heard about it, she told Tanne she wanted the role of Michelle and would also like to produce the film, once the script was written.
Tanne said before he could write the film, he had to experience what it’s like to be in love, added the Hollywood Reporter. He commented on a look that Michelle and Barack give each other, which is telling about their deep love and commitment. Once he had a personal encounter with his own lady love, he was able to take on the monumental task of writing his first film script. The director also said, according to a source, that Michelle and Barack approve of the film, and he hopes they will one day view their story on screen.
— The Film Stage (@TheFilmStage) February 12, 2016
The premise is simple: One day in the summer of 1989, Barack picked up Michelle in an old car that had a hole in the floor. Based on her own words, she never wanted to date Barack, because she was established at her law firm and well on her way to becoming partner, while Barack, although a few years older, was a summer law associate, as he took a break between college and law school. Michelle has told the story of how she tried to get him to go on a blind date with one of her friends, because dating a mentee just seemed tacky.
Sumpter said the pressure of her and her co-star playing the two most well-known people in America was lessened, because the role demonstrated their lives in a different era — when they were in their 20s. Michelle had not then long ago completed law school and Barry was still a Harvard law student.
She finally gave him a chance, and on the first date, she constantly reminded him that it wasn’t a date, although the two watched Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, along with discussing their careers and the importance of public service, per the Deadline. They forged a bond on that first date, which led to marriage, a political career for him, a hospital vice presidency in community service for her, two children, and ultimately, the first black president and First Lady in the United States.
Southside With You opened at Sundance during this year’s #OscarsSoWhite conversation, which highlighted just how few films star people of color, particularly African American actors, noted Variety. Sundance is well known as a showcase for diversity and two of the other films that were sold are The Birth of a Nation, depicting Nat Turner’s 1831 slave revolt, and Morris From America, chronicling the life of a black teen living in Germany.
The movie sounds as though it would have a great audience with married couples, or maybe potential couples who are on an awkward first date. Possibly, Southside With You could get the dialogue going.
[Photo by Mark Sayles/Invision/AP]