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Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions has unveiled a new slate of projects at Netflix, with subjects ranging from one of the first men to reach the summit of Mt. Everest to a YA thriller centered on a Native American girl.
The company also formally announced it’s developing Exit West, a feature starring Riz Ahmed and based on Mohsin Hamid’s acclaimed novel. News of the movie, directed by Yann Demange (White Boy Rick), first broke in March 2020.
“We created Higher Ground to tell great stories. This group of projects builds upon that goal and the incredible path forged by films like Crip Camp, Becoming, and the Oscar-winning American Factory,” the Obamas said in a statement. “From science fiction to the beauty of our natural world to the relationships that define us, Higher Ground continues to strive for fresh perspectives, compelling characters, and a healthy dose of inspiration. We couldn’t be more proud to team up with the brilliant artists behind each of these stories. Each of them has something important to say.”
The newly announced slate joins animated kids’ show Ada Twist, Scientist from executive producer Chris Nee and docuseries The G Word With Adam Conover, loosely based on Michael Lewis’ book The Fifth Risk.
“It has been thrilling to watch President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and the Higher Ground team dive into original programming and produce incredible stories,” said Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “American Factory, Crip Camp and Becoming have captivated audiences all around the world, and their new slate highlights the variety and depth of programming on the horizon as well as new and exciting storytellers.”
The projects below are in various stages of development and will be released over the next several years. Along with Exit West, they are:
Firekeeper’s Daughter is a YA series based on the forthcoming debut novel by Angeline Boulley. It centers on an 18-year-old Native girl who reluctantly goes undercover in a police investigation on her Ojibwe reservation. Mickey Fisher (National Geographic’s Mars, NBC’s Reverie) will serve as showrunner and co-write with Wenonah Wilms, who like Boulley is from the Ojibwe tribe. Fisher and Wilms executive produce.
Great National Parks is a natural history series highlighting some of the most awe-inducing national parks and wild spaces around the world. Higher Ground is producing with Wild Space Productions and Blue Planet II veteran James Honeyborne.
Satellite is a sci-fi feature from Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman’s T Street. Ola Shokunbi is writing, and Kiri Hart and Stephen Feder will produce for T Street.
Tenzing, a feature based on the life of Tenzing Norgay, who along with Sir Edmund Hillary was the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Documentary filmmaker Jennifer Peedom (Sherpa), who has spent years on Everest, will make her narrative feature directing debut. Luke Davies (Lion, Hulu’s Catch-22) wrote the script, which is based on the book Tenzing: Hero of Everest by Ed Douglas.
The Young Wife, from writer-director Tayarisha Poe (Selah and the Spades), follows 29-year-old Celestina on the day of her first wedding — or not exactly a wedding, but a party where she feels out of sync.
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