Barack and Michelle Obama promised that their production deal with Netflix would allow them to produce content “touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more.” Now, the former first couple is turning the migration and refugee-themed novel Exit West into a movie for Netflix as part of their recently announced slate of new projects for the streaming giant.
Exit West, by Pakistani-born author Mohsin Hamid, tells the story of a young couple living in an unnamed third-world city who decide to flee their impoverished conditions. Using a series of magical portals, they venture to new destinations including London, Greece, and northern California.
The Obama’s are producing the movie through their Higher Ground production outfit. The movie will star Sound of Metal actor Riz Ahmed. Also on board as producers are the left-wing, anti-Trump filmmakers Anthony and Joe Russo.
“We created Higher Ground to tell great stories,” said former president Barack Obama and Michelle Obama in a press release. “From science fiction to the beauty of our natural world to the relationships that define us, Higher Ground continues to strive for fresh perspectives, compelling characters, and a healthy dose of inspiration.”
The former first couple signed a lucrative production deal with Netflix in 2018. Netflix co-CEO’s Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos are among Hollywood’s most prominent Democratic fundraisers who both donated money to the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Former Obama national security advisor Susan Rice was a Netflix board member until she recently left to join the Joe Biden administration.
As part of their Netflix deal, the Obama’s are also producing Satellite, a science fiction movie produced by Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson’s production company; and Tenzing, based on the true story of Tenzing Norgay, the sherpa who reached the summit of Mt. Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary.
Among the series that the Obama’s will produce are Firekeeper’s Daughter about a 18-year-old Native American girl who becomes involved in a police investigation on her Ojibwe reservaation; and Great National Parks, a docuseries on the country’s national parks.
The Obama’s most high-profile project so far for Netflix has been American Factory, a documentary about a Chinese billionaire who re-opens a disused Ohio factory. The documentary won an Oscar and an Emmy Award.