We all have our personal journey, different from one another. Today we will talk about the journey of a woman that inspired us all and the documentary that describes her story.
Hello Explorers, and welcome to a new episode of the Acting Explorers Club! For today’s episode, we have something very special for you. This is not properly an episode on acting; it is much more! I would dare to say it is an episode on becoming…
Yes, you got it right! Today we will talk about Becoming, the documentary based on Michelle Obama’s book.
Let’s start from the beginning. Why did the former First Lady decide to give this name to her memoir?
“We actually had a blooper list of titles that we won’t go into here. But Becoming just summed it all up. A question that adults ask kids—I think it’s the worst question in the world—is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As if growing up is finite. As if you become something and that is all there is.”
This is such an important lesson for all of us, kids and adults! We are used to thinking that one day we will arrive at our final stage and reach a point where we will just be able to stop and rest. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) it is not the case.
Did you ever realize that every assumption you made on your future self was never truly correct? I’ll give you an example. Maybe when you were in elementary school, you thought that you would have loved vegetables in middle school. You imagined yourself in middle school as a totally different person, a grown-up you that did grown-up things.
Then you arrived in middle school, and you realized that you were still yourself, with the same habits and same behaviors! Maybe you still did not like vegetables, but you tried some and probably will keep trying to improve.
This is exactly what Mrs Obama tries to tell us: we are in constant evolution, there won’t be an end. But this is also the beauty of our journey.
Michelle Obama’s Becoming: From the Book to the Documentary
The whole country was amazed when the news came out: Michelle Obama was publishing a memoir on her life!
The book came out and it was a success. It got published by Crown and was released in 24 languages. Furthermore, one million copies were donated to FirstBook, an American nonprofit organization that provides books to children.
It was the highest-selling book published in the United States in October 2018, setting the record 15 days after its publication, with over two million copies sold.
The documentary followed Michelle Obama on her tour to promote the book in November 2018. For one hour and a half, we are able to participate in some of the most important events and interviews she was in. The most iconic of them is probably the one in her hometown, Chicago, with nothing less than Oprah hosting it.
These two strong, inspiring women discussed important themes like failure and change, but also essential parts of Michelle’s life, like growing up in Southside Chicago in a modest family.
“You know, I appreciate the way you were able to reveal not just what happened to your family, but what was going on with all families.” Oprah tells Mrs Obama. “We often talk about how systemic racism impacts generations. And the way you write about your grandfather Dandy—I thought this was so beautiful:
“Gradually, he downgraded his hopes, letting go of the idea of college, thinking he’d train to become an electrician instead, but this, too, was quickly thwarted. If you wanted to work as an electrician (or as a steelworker, a carpenter, or a plumber, for that matter) on any of the big job sites in Chicago, you needed a Union card. And if you were Black, the overwhelming odds were that you weren’t going to get one. This particular form of discrimination altered the destinies of generations of African Americans, including many of the men in my family, limiting their income, their opportunity, and eventually their aspirations.”
Growing up with the consciousness of having fewer opportunities than other individuals is what stops many of us. And this is true in so many aspects of life! The movie’s industry is probably one of the best examples. In such a competitive environment, we may let prejudice guide us and put us down. We may sometimes believe that another actor casting for the role we want is better than us just because they have more connections or are more integrated into the industry. We may lose self-esteem and quit the show without even trying hard enough.
In Michelle’s case, her parents helped her realize that something happens to a person who knows deep inside that they are more than what their opportunities allowed them to be. She says that for her grandfather, for example, this problem bubbled up in him in a discontent that he couldn’t shake. That’s why her grandparents worked so hard to change her life and the whole family’s one. She says that when she saw her grandparents and heard about their sacrifice, her notion was “Oh, little girl, you better get that gold star. They’re counting on you.”
Michelle Obama’s Documentary: Behind the Scenes
At this point, we all understood how much work there was behind Michelle’s journey and her emotional involvement in the documentary.
But to put together this incredible project, there was also much work from the entire troupe. In particular, the director Nadia Hallgren had the difficult job of shaping the documentary and finding the wire that could connect all the different events and interviews to create a unique and organic art piece.
The work she made started from understanding the book’s core and finding the pieces of the puz