Southside with You


New American Cinema | 2016 | 80 minutes

Stranger Says:

Thank you, director Richard Tanne, for releasing this presidential rom-com in the midst of one of the ugliest election seasons in recent memory. The film follows a young, chain-smoking Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) and a deeply principled Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) as they traverse Chicago's Southside on their first "date." The tension throughout is that it's not really a date, at least not until Michelle says it is. She's Barack's advisor at the law firm where he's working for the summer, and as she explains early on in the film, she has to work doubly hard to be taken seriously because she's a woman, then thrice as hard because she's black. What would happen to her credibility if she fell for the first cute black guy that walked through the firm's doors? A relentlessly charming Barack pursues her anyway, but Michelle calls him on his ignorance and puts him in his place. It may be difficult for viewers to believe that the real Barack and Michelle spent so much of their first date outlining their childhoods, their experiences with structural oppression, and their theories of change, but who cares? This is a sweet and schmaltzy film, and one that celebrates the mythic figures of Barack and Michelle Obama. Conveniently, the film takes place in a time before the Obama legacy became complicated by massive deportations and overseas drone wars, but... well, there's nothing that ought to be said after that. (SYDNEY BROWNSTONE)

SIFF Says:

Spend a disarmingly romantic 1989 summer afternoon with the future president of the United States, Barack Obama, as he woos his future First Lady on an epic first date across Chicago's South Side in a real-life version of BEFORE SUNRISE.

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Film Credits
Richard Tanne
Tika Sumpter, Parker Sawyers, Vanessa Bell Calloway
SIFF 2016