Barack and Michelle Obama Screen New Documentary at Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival

The new documentary Descendant had its screening at the 20th Annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, and the screening came with a surprise appearance from former President Barack Obama along with former First Lady Michelle Obama. The two appeared on stage to join executive producer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, director Margaret Brown, and festival programmers Stephanie and Floyd Rance.

After the screening, Thompson and Brown would speak more about the movie in a Q&A session. They were joined by producers Essie Chambers and Kyle Martin, co-producer Dr. Kern Jackson, and film subjects Joycelyn Davis and Rose “Veda” Tunstall. Historian Dr. Jessica B. Harris moderated the session.


Since exiting the White House, the Obamas have turned to producing content through an exclusive deal with Netflix. This includes Descendant, which is executive produced by the Obamas’ production company Higher Ground Productions. Other projects introduced by the Obamas through this deal include Michelle Obama’s children’s cooking show Waffles + Mochi as well as Barack Obama’s Emmy-nominated docuseries Our Great National Parks.

Descendant Has Already Performed Well on the Festival Circuit


A Higher Ground and Night Tide production, in association with Two One Five Entertainment, Descendant was a special jury prize winner at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Set to start streaming this fall on Netflix, you can read the official synopsis for the movie below.

Documentary filmmaker Margaret Brown (“The Order of Myths”, “The Great Invisible”) returns to her hometown of Mobile, Alabama to document the search for and historic discovery of The Clotilda, the last known ship to arrive in the United States, illegally carrying enslaved Africans. After a century of secrecy and speculation, the 2019 discovery of the ship turns attention toward the descendant community of Africatown and presents a moving portrait of a community actively grappling with and fighting to preserve their heritage while examining what justice looks like today.

Back in 2018, when the Obamas first signed their deal with Netflix, they spoke out about the type of content that they were looking forward to bringing to the streaming platform. The goal was to shine a light for those who otherwise may not get the opportunity to have their stories told. As a statement from Barack Obama noted at the time:

“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience. That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix — we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”

Michelle added a statement of her own.

“Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others. Netflix’s unparalleled service is a natural fit for the kinds of stories we want to share, and we look forward to starting this exciting new partnership.”

Descendant comes to Netflix this fall.