Obamas’ production company grabs 7 Emmy nominations

The former first couple received the nominations for their landmark documentaries 'Becoming' and 'American Factory'

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle close the Obama Foundation Summit together on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology on October 29, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama‘s production company, Higher Ground Productions, has nabbed seven Emmy nominations for their critically acclaimed documentaries.

The Television Academy announced the nominations for American Factory, which was released in January 2019, and Becoming, which debuted on Netflix in May 2020, on Tuesday.

The Michelle Obama film, which chronicles the life and work of the former first lady while highlighting multiple stops of her book tour, has scored noms for Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program, and Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special.

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“The opportunity to share the story of Michelle Obama, the first Black first lady, is bigger than anything I could have dreamed,” Nadia Hallgren, director and cinematographer of Becoming, said in a statement. 

American Factory, meanwhile, takes an intimate look inside the lives of workers who are employed at a Chinese company’s factory in Ohio. The documentary is nominated for Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program, and Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program.

In August 2019, the Obamas sat down with the co-directors of American Factory, Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, for a conversation about the film.

“One way at looking at what we’ve both been doing for the last 20 years, maybe most of our careers…was to tell stories. We want to be in relationships with people and connect with them and work together with them,” former President Barack Obama explained at the time.

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“We all have a sacred story, a story that gives us meaning and purpose in how we organize our lives,” he continued. “If you know someone, if you talk to them face-to-face, you can forge a connection. You may not agree with them on everything, but there’s some common ground to be found and you can move forward with them together.”

Becoming and American Factory are the Obamas’ first two releases as film producers. The former first couple started Higher Ground Productions, which is headed by Tonia Davis and Priya Swaminathan, in 2019.

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