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Becoming is a most appropriate title for the documentary about Michelle Obama’s book tour for her memoir by the same title. It is a window into the life of someone who has the potential to become so much more than she already is.

The woman Obama is today was forged by the eight-year challenge of being first lady and living in the White House. Those years might very well be the in-between time, however, as she was shaped by her family, education, and marriage prior to the White House years and will no doubt be honed by the opportunities that come to her in these subsequent years. 

Obama honors the positive influence of her family of origin: her father, who died too early of MS and her mother who along with Michelle’s brother, accompanies her on much of the tour.

The documentary pays homage to her husband, former president Barack Obama, but does not allow his charisma to diminish her story. Her daughters engage with their mom, and clearly they are her pride and joy.

The documentary highlights parts of a 34-city tour. The cameras pan huge audiences of eager listeners as well as small book clubs, local libraries, and women assembled together in southern churches. Women are moved to tears as Obama takes the time to ask them their names, ask them about their lives, and bless them into their future.

The documentary portrays the reality that Obama is a role model for women of color and minorities. Some of the most poignant moments are Obama’s conversations with young women in high school and university. She encourages these young women to take hold of their own stories. “We cannot wait for our world to be equal”, she says. “Have high expectations, and do not underestimate yourself.”

Obama speaks honestly of her White House experience, and the positive outweighs the family’s experiences of racism. “This is a good country, and its people are decent,” she says. “We need leaders who talk of hope and possibility for change.”

The footage of Becoming is unimpressive and made the task of producing a high-quality film difficult. There is too much backstage green room chatter and too many filmed conversations sitting in side-by-side chairs with talk show host interviewees. One wonders if the filmmaker had limited access to Obama during the tour, leaving the viewer to wonder if the documentary was an afterthought. (Netflix)

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