×

Barack and Michelle Obama Set ‘The Fifth Risk,’ Frederick Douglass Biopic Among Initial Netflix Projects

Higher Ground Productions, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company in partnership with Netflix, has unveiled an initial slate of projects that include adaptations of Michael Lewis’ “The Fifth Risk,” a Frederick Douglass biopic and a period drama set in the fashion world penned by Callie Khouri.

The content comprises a range of scripted and unscripted projects for a range of audiences, as well as full-length features and documentaries. Priya Swaminathan and Tonia Davis, the co-heads of the organization, revealed the slate on Tuesday.

The announcement includes seven projects that are in various different stages of development, to be released over the next several years.

The former President and first lady launched Higher Ground last spring.

“We created Higher Ground to harness the power of storytelling. That’s why we couldn’t be more excited about these projects,” Barack Obama said. “Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect, and inspire us all.”

Higher Ground has made a point of focusing on stories that reflect a range of “interests and experiences” but are “relevant to our daily lives,” Michelle Obama said. “We think there’s something here for everyone—moms and dads, curious kids, and anyone simply looking for an engaging, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can’t wait to see these projects come to life — and the conversations they’ll generate.”

Here’s a rundown of Higher Ground projects to date:

  • “American Factory” was acquired by Netflix in association with Higher Ground Productions out of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Directing Award for U.S. Documentary. From Participant Media, the film is directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (“The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant,” “A Lion in the House,” “Seeing Red”). The film takes a deep dive into a post-industrial Ohio, where a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant and hires 2,000 blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.  Bognar produces, alongside Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert, and Julie Parker Benello.
  • “Bloom” is an upstairs/downstairs drama series set in the world of fashion in post-WWII New York City that depicts barriers faced by women and by people of color in an era characterized by both hurdles and progress. It is written and executive produced by Khouri (“Nashville,” “Thelma and Louise”), from an idea developed by Khouri, writer-director Clement Virgo (“The Book Of Negroes,” “The Wire,” “Empire”) and novelist and producer Juliana Maio (“City of the Sun”). Higher Ground Productions, Khouri, Virgo and Maio will executive produce the series.
  • Higher Ground is producing a feature film adaptation of author David W. Blight’s “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,” for which he won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in History.
  • Adapted from the New York Times’ obituary column Overlooked, telling the stories of remarkable people whose deaths were not reported by the newspaper, Higher Ground is developing the concept as a scripted anthology series with producers Liza Chasin of 3dot Productions and Joy Gorman Wettels of Anonymous Content.
  • For family programming, “Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents” will be a half-hour preschool series from creators Jeremy Konner (“Drunk History”) and Erika Thormahlen. The show will take young children and their families around the globe on an adventure that tells us the story of our food.
  • From Lewis, the author of “The Big Short” and “Moneyball,” and based on his book “The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy,” “Fifth Risk,” a non-fiction series, will portray the importance of unheralded work done by everyday heroes guiding our government and safeguarding our nation.
  • “Crip Camp” is a feature-length documentary film in production that is supported by the Sundance Institute and acquired earlier this year by Higher Ground and Netflix. Just down the road from Woodstock, in the early 1970s, a parallel revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for teenagers with disabilities that would set in motion the disability rights movement. The film is directed by former camper Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham. Producers include Newnham, LeBrecht and Sara Bolder, with executive producer Howard Gertler.

More TV

  • 13 REASONS WHY

    Netflix Revises Controversial '13 Reasons Why' Suicide Scene

    Netflix has edited the controversial suicide scene from “Thirteen Reasons Why” two years after the show originally premiered. “We’ve heard from many young people that ’13 Reasons Why’ encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help—often for the first time,” Netflix said in a statement Monday. “As we [...]

  • Russell Tovey on His 'Arrogant and

    Russell Tovey on His 'Arrogant and Heroic' 'Years and Years' Character

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the fourth episode of “Years and Years.” Russell T. Davies’ limited series “Years and Years” began with a birth, but it did not wait until the finale to book-end the story with a death. In the fourth episode of the multi-year spanning family drama, [...]

  • Hugh GRant photographed by Shayan Asgharnia

    Listen: Hugh Grant on Why He Would Kill Social Media if He Could

    Hugh Grant has been very active in U.K. press reform initiatives, but he knows the problem is even bigger than the media moguls who control the world’s major news outlets. That’s why Hacked Off, the campaign he’s involved with, is also expanding its scope to include the impact of online propaganda. “It’s particularly terrifying, the [...]

  • Veronica Mars -- "Heads You Lose"

    TV Review: 'Veronica Mars' Season 4

    “Veronica Mars” was a slap to the face of high school dramas when it premiered on UPN in 2004. Creator Rob Thomas took the well-worn “who killed the pretty teenager?” whodunnit and hard-boiled it, following a traumatized girl desperately trying to harden herself to the world’s harsh realities as she tried to solve the case. [...]

  • Norah O'Donnell Invokes Edward R. Murrow

    Norah O'Donnell Invokes Edward R. Murrow to Launch New Era at 'CBS Evening News'

    Though Norah O’Donnell had her first turn as anchor of “CBS Evening News” Monday night, she didn’t rely on any attention-grabbing tricks to carry the day. There was no flashy drawing board, no rattling off of unsettling, urgent headlines and no wrap-up of the day with a mawkish end segment calling up some element of [...]

  • Alton Brown

    TV News Roundup: Food Network Announces Premiere Date of 'Good Eats: The Return'

    In today’s roundup, Showtime releases a full-length trailer for “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” and Food Network announces the return of Alton Brown’s “Good Eats.”  DATES After taking a break from the series, Alton Brown will bring “Good Eats” back to Food Network’s primetime lineup with “Good Eats: The Return.”  In its first [...]

  • 9-1-1: Angela Bassett in the series

    Fox Sees Primetime, Sports Ad Gains As TV Upfront Wraps

    Fox Corporation is the latest to benefit from stronger-than-expected trends in TV ad spending, as the company notched strong gains in advertising commitments for its next cycle of programming – its first since selling off a large chunk of its media assets to Walt Disney. Ad demand was stronger than many executives anticipated, according to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content