Becoming (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): Her journey continues

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Netflix documentary film “Becoming”, which was released in last week, made me miss a lot when the American society and government looked relatively more normal, decent, and sensible. When Barack and Michelle Obama entered the White House in early 2009, I and many others hoped that there would be more changes in the country, but, despite some notable progresses and achievements during the next 8 years, there came Donald J. Trump, and, as all of you know, it did not take much time for this orange-face prick and his deplorable cronies to drive the American society and its people down to their latest low point.

This has been a pretty depressing sight to say the least, but there are also many good people keeping trying to fight for the better future nonetheless, and Michelle Obama is certainly one of such people. As shown from the documentary, she was already ready to spread messages of hope and solidarity around the country right from the day when she and her husband left the White House, and the documentary gives us a glimpse into her continuing journey while occasionally looking back on her incredible life.

Closely following her book tour in 2019, the documentary shows Obama being quite comfortable with her current status. As she frankly admits at one point, she feels less pressured than before because she is less scrutinized by the media and public before, and we see how effortlessly she holds everyone’s attention while simply being herself during those promotion events for her book. When she meets a bunch of various people as signing the copies of her book, they all are excited to meet and talk a bit with her, and she looks genuinely interested in what they want to say to her.

We also see Obama often having meetings with many different young people, who are all willing to listen to her advice and encouragement while having each own life story to tell. When she meets a group of students from a Native American preservation area, they mostly talk about their increasing concerns over the blatant racism of the ongoing Trump era, and she respond to them with care and empathy.

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These and other moments during Obama’s book tour are frequently intercut with her reminiscence on her own life. She was born to a middle-class African American family residing in the Southern region of Chicago, and she was fortunate to have good parents who always tried their best for providing a nice environment for her and her siblings including her older brother Craig. She was a model student during her high school years, but then she faced bias and prejudice as preparing for higher education, and that made her more determined to advance and succeed than before.

After eventually graduating from Princeton University and the Harvard Law School, Obama began to work in a law firm in Chicago, but then there came an unexpected change via a certain young, ambitious African American dude who happened to be under her supervision in 1989. At first, they were just an intern and his mentor, but they quickly got closer to each other, and they eventually married several days later.

As subsequently becoming the mother of two girls, Obama decided to put aside her career ambition a bit for raising her daughters and supporting her husband’s growing political career, but then things became quite more challenging than she ever imagined thanks to her husband’s swift political ascension during the 2000s. Just like her husband, she drew lots of attention when the 2008 US Presidential Election began, and she talks to us about how much she felt pressured as tactfully presenting herself in front of the American people.

Everything looked bright and hopeful as she entered the White House along with her husband, but then they saw more of the dark sides of the American society fueled by racism and tribalism. Sure, there were good moments including the day when same-sex marriage became legally recognized and protected in US, but there were also bad moments such as when they had to deal with the latest unjust death of African American citizen.

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Above all, they were slapped really hard by Trump’s unbelievable victory in the 2016 US Presidential election. While she surely does not like Trump and his supporters at all, Obama simply chooses not to talk much about them, and she instead emphasizes on how much she was disappointed to see many young American people not motivated enough to stop Trump during that traumatic political moment for her and her family and many other people in US.

Nonetheless, Obama keeps going as she always has, and it is surely nice to see her exuding hope and optimism in front of thousands of audiences. Yes, things seem to be falling apart with more despair and hopelessness these days, but her passionate words in the documentary remind me that we should keep trying hard even though we may be doomed in the end.

Although I must point out that “Becoming” is more or less than a supplement to Obama’s book, the documentary is still engaging thanks to Obama’s radiant presence, and director Nadia Hallgren did a fairly competent job on the whole. I wish it were more focused and insightful, but it succeeded as much as intended in my inconsequential opinion, and I will not deny that I felt a little better for a while after watching it.

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