On Friday night, former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance to promote Descendant (via Variety). After the film premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, the Marthas Vineyard African-American Film Festival got off to a good start.
Descendant recounts the search for the Clotilda, America's last slave ship that was destroyed outside of Africatown in 1860, although many descendants of the people who were brought here from Africa continue to live in the area. Margaret Brown's documentary examines the deeply destructive effects of slavery in America.
Both Obamas praised the documentary and discussed how it fits into their bigger storytelling goals with Higher Ground and Netflix.
Michelle Obama explained that when we saw this we immediately thought, This is why we were doing Higher Ground. We dont talk about anything because of what we know about our history as Black people. We cannot be sure how much we can gain from our elders.
Michelle and I discussed what we wanted to do after the presidency, according to Barack Obama. One of the main things that we learned both while we were campaigning for office and when we became president was the importance of stories and who tells stories, and whether or not stories are accepted.
Robert Daniels penned an IndieWire review of the documentary, gliding over the water and barely piercing the surface, exploring the various strategies used by Africantown to keep their history alive, and the many strategies employed by white America to silence them.
Descendent, a must-see Browns filling of a historical gap, a blow against white-led Black erasure, explains to audiences how storytelling can be a novel act.
Michelle Obama reiterated that position, saying, "We have to be the ones." We cannot follow that custom of keeping our pain hidden. Because what this film demonstrates is that our stories are the means that make us visible.