August 17, 2019
Netflix gears up for awards season with a Sundance winner backed by Michelle and Barack Obama’s production company
Streaming: Netflix and the Obamas raise the stakes
As if it weren’t aiming to subsume the cinema market in other ways, Netflix now seems to be mirroring its seasonal release patterns as well. As in the blockbuster-crammed multiplexes, the summer has been a generally dry patch for the streaming network’s so-called “originals”: the offbeat independents and festival acquisitions that often fill these column inches. As the summer winds down, however, and the industry braces itself for awards season – yep, believe it or not, it’s a six-month red-carpet run – Netflix is beginning to give us the good stuff again.
Their next prestige season warms up with American Factory, a documentary that was one of the talking points of January’s Sundance film festival, winning the best director prize and prompting immediate Oscar speculation. Since its premiere in the snows of Park City, Utah, the film has acquired an additional, rather illustrious claim to fame. It was picked up by Higher Ground Productions, the Netflix-allied production company founded by Barack and Michelle Obama last year, and is the first film from their stable to premiere on the service (it hits the Netflix menu on Wednesday). Higher Ground, launched with a noble-sounding if rather vague mission to “harness the power of storytelling”, has its eye on major media domination. Alongside the Netflix partnership, they’ve also signed a deal to produce exclusive podcasts for Spotify.
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