Ice cream and a movie—that’s how the most prominent couple in the United States got their start. Now that love story is getting the film treatment in an independent drama that depicts Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date.
In 1989, Michelle Robinson, a young attorney at a Chicago law firm, was assigned to advise Obama, a summer associate still in law school at Harvard. While she initially rebuffed his advances, she eventually agreed to a date with the future president who, by her own later admission, was ”hip, cutting-edge, cultural, sensitive, and patient.”
The couple went on a nice stroll through Chicago, grabbing lunch at the Art Institute and seeing Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. The day culminated in a kiss outside an ice cream parlor.
All that and more will be dramatized in filmmaker Richard Tanne’s Southside With You, which is set to debut at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday (Jan. 24). Here’s a description of the film from the Sundance website:
One Chicago afternoon in 1989, a Harvard Law summer associate named Barack Obama finagled a tête-à-tête with an attorney from the prestigious corporate law firm where they both worked. Her name was Michelle Robinson, and his pretense was a friendly outing to a community organizer meeting. In Michelle’s eyes, it was most certainly not a date. But as ice cream gives way to a stop at the Art Institute, and the community gathering conveniently becomes a chance for Barack to lecture brilliantly on activism, it’s stunningly obvious to Michelle that this cigarette-smoking smooth talker is desperately trying to woo her. As their epic encounter continues into evening and these fiercely bright minds go head-to-head, sparks fly.
Southside With You takes plenty of poetic license to craft this charming, playful story out of true-life events, yet actors Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers embody the essence of two people matched in power, idealism, and intellect. As the second Obama presidential term winds down, it’s profound to consider just how serendipitous and consequential that day in 1989 was—not just for Michelle and Barack, but for America.
Here’s the first clip from the film, showing Obama (Parker Sawyers) trying to convince Robinson (Tika Sumpter) to go on the date with him:
The film takes place entirely on that one fateful day, similar to Richard Linklater’s Oscar-winning “Before” trilogy of romantic dramas, which each show just a single day of a long relationship. Except this one is about the president and first lady of the United States.
It’s unclear if the Obamas, who got married in 1992, are excited or terrified by the existence of a movie re-enacting the genesis of their relationship.
“I’ve heard from pretty reliable second-hand sources that they are aware of the movie, that they are curious to see it, and also, I think, rightfully baffled that it exists,” Tanne told Yahoo.