*Barack and Michelle Obama made a special appearance at the 2022 Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival (MVAAFF), which kicked off Friday.
The couple shared a few words before a screening of the Sundance award-winning Netflix doc, “Descendant,” Variety reports. Directed by Margaret Brown, the documentary will launch on the streamer later this year. Per the report, the story “follows members of Africatown, a small community in Alabama, as they share their personal stories and community history as descendants of the Clotilda, the last known ship carrying enslaved Africans to the United States,” the outlet writes.
According to the film’s logline, “after a century shrouded in secrecy and speculation, descendants of the Clotilda’s survivors are reclaiming their story.” Netflix acquired worldwide rights to the documentary in January.
“When we screened this… we looked at it and immediately thought, ‘This is why we’re doing Higher Ground.’ Because what we know about our history as Black people, we don’t talk about nothing. We can’t get anything out of our elders, can we? We don’t know anything,” Michelle said at the film festival. “Our mothers don’t talk about menopause, nobody knows about why grandma and grandpa got divorced. We just don’t talk. And there’s a lot of psychology around that, but what this film reminds us of is the power that our stories have. And we have to tell that truth.”
What a surprise! Former POTUS @BarackObama & former FLOTUS @MichelleObama surprised the audience tonight on day 1 of the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Fest to introduce Netflix’s showing of their new film #DESCENDENT produced by Essie Chambers, Questlove, & Kyle Martin. pic.twitter.com/V3X4M1OqMG
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) August 6, 2022
She added, “We have to tell our stories to our younger folks. We have to be the ones, we cannot follow that tradition of keeping our pain silent, because what this film shows us is our stories are the power that makes us seen. And I also thought, this could be the beginning of a storytelling process, because guess what we have? We have phones, everybody’s using them. And we need to encourage our young people to reach out to the elders that are existing. And instead of taking photos of your food, or in addition to taking photos of your food and the latest TikTok whatever it is, how about talking to grandma and great-grandma and asking them some of those questions.”
Barack explained “When we left the White House, Michelle and I talked about the things we wanted to do post-presidency. We’ve got a lot of stuff going on, but one of the things that we learned both when we were campaigning for office and taking office was the importance of stories and who tells stories and what stories are valid and what stories are discounted.”
The former president continued, “And it’s one of the powers of this festival, and the work that the Rances have done is to lift up stories that too often have been lost in the flow of time. Because we believe that everybody’s stories matter. Everybody’s got a sacred story that motivates us, moves us. It’s not just a matter of nostalgia, it powers us into the present and the future.”
The Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival runs from Aug. 5-13.