Barack and Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance on Friday night at a Washington D.C. screening of “Rustin,” the new Netflix film about Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin that they produced through Higher Ground Productions.
As the former president took the stage to address the crowd at the HBCU First Look Film Festival, he acknowledged both the Veteran’s Day holiday and the resolution of the SAG-AFTRA strike. Obama praised the deals that both actors and writers were able to make with the AMPTP, citing the resolution to the strikes as evidence of the power of organized labor.
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“It’s great to see even more of you since the strikes are over,” he said. “As somebody who cares a lot about the power of workers in this country and as the father of somebody who writes in film, I am glad that both the actors and the writers came to an agreement that recognizes their worth and their work.”
“Rustin” stars Coleman Domingo as the eponymous organizer, who was the driving force behind the March on Washington in 1963. Michelle Obama explained that the impetus behind the film was “sharing the stories of the folks who pushed us towards a better, more just world. And that’s especially important when it’s a story that’s been overlooked for far too long.”
The film fits into the former First Couple’s stated mission that led them to start Higher Ground Productions. While the Netflix-based production company has recently expanded into genre fare, the bulk of its output is devoted to highlighting under-discussed stories from America’s past and present.
“When we left the White House, Michelle and I talked about the things we wanted to do post-presidency,” Barack Obama said in 2022. “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.”
“Rustin” is now playing in select theaters. The film will begin streaming on Netflix on Friday, November 17.
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