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President Obama, Michelle Obama Share Programming Slate

Higher Ground Productions, President Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company in partnership with Netflix, has revealed its slate of projects.

“We created Higher Ground to harness the power of storytelling. That’s why we couldn’t be more excited about these projects,” President Obama said. “Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect, and inspire us all.”

Projects include American Factory, a film that looks at post-industrial Ohio, where a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant and hires 2,000 Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America. Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert direct.

Bloom is an upstairs/downstairs drama series set in the world of fashion in post-WWII New York. It depicts barriers faced by women and by people of color in an era marked by hurdles but also tremendous progress. The project is written and executive produced by Callie Khouri from an idea developed by Khouri, Clement Virgo and novelist and producer Juliana Maio.

Higher Ground is producing a feature film adaptation of David W. Blight's book Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.

Adapted from The New York Times’ obituary column “Overlooked,” telling the stories of remarkable people whose deaths were not reported by the newspaper, Overlooked will be a scripted anthology series with producers Liza Chasin of 3dot Productions and Joy Gorman Wettels of Anonymous Content.

Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents will be a half-hour preschool series from creators Jeremy Konner and Erika Thormahlen. The show will take young children and their families around the globe on an adventure that tells us the story of our food.

Higher Ground is adapting the Michael Lewis book The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy. Non fiction series Fifth Risk will detail the importance of unheralded work done by everyday heroes guiding our government and safeguarding our nation.

Crip Camp is a feature-length documentary in production that is supported by the Sundance Institute and acquired earlier this year by Higher Ground and Netflix. Just down the road from Woodstock, in the early 1970s, a parallel revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers that would transform young lives, and America forever, by helping to set in motion the disability rights movement. The film is directed by Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham. Howard Gertler is executive producing.

Priya Swaminathan and Tonia Davis are co-heads of Higher Ground Productions, which aims to embody “the core values of celebrating the human spirit through struggles and triumph; facing adversity through resilience, determination, and hope; lifting up new voices and stories to bring about change; and transcending divides to bring us together,” the company said.

“We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it’s all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives,” Mrs. Obama said. “We think there’s something here for everyone—moms and dads, curious kids, and anyone simply looking for an engaging, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can’t wait to see these projects come to life — and the conversations they’ll generate.”

Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix, said the projects exemplify the core values of Higher Ground. ““The breadth of their initial slate across series, film, documentary and family programming shows their commitment to diverse creators and unique voices that will resonate with our members around the world,” he said. 

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.