Pete Souza, the White House photographer who managed to capture Presidents Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan at both ceremonial occasions and in unguarded moments, will be the subject of an upcoming documentary from Focus Features.
The indie label announced that it is teaming with Dawn Porter, the Peabody Award-winning director of “Gideon’s Army” and “Bobby Kennedy for President,” on the upcoming feature. Focus had a big hit with 2018’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” a documentary about children’s entertainer Fred Rogers that went on to gross nearly $23 million domestically. The studio hopes that it will have a similar feel-good story in Souza. The photographer’s media profile has risen in recent years after he started using social media and later his book, “Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents,” to draw photographic contrasts between Obama’s tenure and Donald Trump’s more tumultuous stint at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
In the logline, Focus says that Souza has important experiences that allow him to share an invaluable perspective on the leaders who shaped our world. “And as the official White House photographer for two administrations — both Democratic and Republican — Souza had unprecedented access to Presidencies on both sides of the political spectrum which has given him a unique vantage point on our current political landscape,” the description reads. “This view provided Souza with insights not related to policy or politics, but instead relating to the office of the Presidency more broadly, forcing him to confront challenging questions: What is leadership? What does it mean to be ‘Presidential?’ American? Empathetic? A leader of a global superpower?”
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Oscar-winning producer Evan Hayes (“Free Solo”) will produce under his ACE Content banner alongside Laura Dern and her Jaywalker Pictures partner Jayme Lemons, in association with Platform One Media. Porter’s next project also dives into politics — titled “Good Trouble,” it looks at the life and times of Civil Rights icon and lawmaker John Lewis.
“For eight years during the Obama presidency, I was inside the room where it happened. My job was to visually document his Presidency, making more than 1.9 million photographs for the historical record,” Souza said in a statement. “But I also strived to capture the fleeting moments of President Obama’s life to show what he was like as a human being. On January 20, 2017, I left the White House and resumed my most important role in life — citizen. And it’s as citizen that I have chosen to speak out, using my photographs as commentary of where we were and how that contrasts with where we are today.”
Focus Features will distribute the documentary domestically, and Universal Pictures International will handle foreign distribution.