“They like to tell stories about the people. That’s what makes them different.”
For decades, Los Tigres del Norte have been one of Mexico’s most popular and respected Norteño bands. Los Tigres, led by Jorge Hernandez, built a loyal following by writing songs about love, the struggles of immigration, and the U.S.-Mexico drug trade. They’ve won countless Grammys, appeared in movies, and collaborated with some of the most recognized names in music. But it almost never happened.
In a trailer for the documentary “Jefe de Jefes,” Hernandez says that as a kid, he dreamed of a much different career path. “I didn’t want to become a musician. I wanted to study,” says Hernandez. Directed by Olallo Rubio, the documentary features musicians, actors and academics breaking down what makes Los Tigres a once-in-a-generation band.
Just because it might seem as if the world is on pause, it doesn’t mean that our efforts to learn more about it and better ourselves should be.
Documentaries alongside biographies can teach us so much about the world we live in and open our eyes to its complexities, even teaching us about the obstacles we did not know were right in front of us. As women of color, there are so many, and often times we use documentaries to learn about them, so we can better understand how to propel ourselves forward and continue to succeed. To make sure that you do too, we’re rounding up documentaries for you to learn, grow, and build hope from while in quarantine.
Check the documentaries we’re binging now that we’ve got the time below!
Former First Lady Michelle Obama takes an intimate look at her life, relationships, and dreams in this documentary which sees her touring the country while promoting her book Becoming. The New York Times describes the film as showing “a familiar, albeit more carefree, former first lady.”
AKA Jane Roe (2020)
This documentary by Nick McSweeney highlights Norma McCorvey, the woman who made history as “Jane Roe” in the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade. Beyond the shock value of the movie’s twist, which unearths the reasons why McCorvey ultimately turned her back on the movement that advocated for her right to choose, it tells a story about the ruthlessness of political agendas.
Abuelas: Grandmothers On A Mission (2013)
Three decades after Argentinean mothers created a movement demanding Argentinean officials to discover what happened with the sons and daughters who “disappeared” during Argentina’s Dirty War, the grandmothers continue their efforts in this documentary.
Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed (2004)
The historical documentary follows Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm during her campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 1972. It will serve as an impressive reminder of this Black woman’s might and the fight she managed to get us all passionate about.
This Oscar-nominated film is about a beekeeper in North Macedonia. Directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov this documentary shows how the beekeeper’s life is affected when the ancient techniques she uses to farm bees are impacted by a new family who moves into the neighborhood and brings modern technology with them.
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (2016)
African- American poet Maya Angelou has her life depicted in the documentary that dives into her traumatic childhood and her life as a singer and dancer. The first feature documentary includes interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, and Common.
Knock Down The House (2019)
This documentary featuring Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the league of women who ran for Congress in 2018 including Cori Bush, Paula Jean Swearengin, and Amy Vilela made waves when it first debuted on Netflix. Just as it did for us, we imagine it will give you a whole heck of a lot of hope and pride in the woman who fight for our rights and country.
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Netflix’s “Becoming” is one documentary everyone is talking about. The documentary, which follows former First Lady Michelle Obama on her 34-city book tour, was directed by Afro-Latina, Puerto Rican cinematographer Nadia Hallgren. It’s the excellence we all love to see.
Nadia Hallgren is the directing powerhouse behind Netflix’s documentary “Becoming.”
“Becoming” is Hallgren’s first feature-lengthed film and what a way to make a debut. The documentary follows Michelle Obama during her sold-out book tour promoting a book of the same name.
“I think the biggest thing was that it was a tremendous responsibility,” Hallgren told BlackFilm. “This is going to happen one time with Mrs. Obama. I wanted to make the thing and just whatever responsibility that was probably the thing that weighed the most on me.
Higher Ground Productions approached Hallgren to create the documentary.
“I was sitting at my kitchen table the way that I am now, and I got a call from Priya Swaminathan, who is one of the heads of Higher Ground,” Hallgren told Essence Magazine. “And she tells me that Mrs. Obama is getting ready to go out on this book tour and that they were kind of floating the idea of documenting it. Not being certain yet where that footage would live or if it would go anywhere other than her archives, but they were thinking about it. So, after a couple of phone calls, I get an email that says you have an appointment at the Office of Michelle and Barack Obama on this day.”
While filming Obama for the documentary, there was only one rule.
Hallgren says that she was given unprecedented access to the former first lady. She was backstage at every book tour stop, rode with Obama in her motorcades, and spent time at her home. The only thing Obama requested about the footage was that Hallgren not shoot footage of her and her daughters at home. Hallgren agreed because it seemed like a fair request.
However, we did still get footage of Sasha and Malia but one moment really stands out.
During the documentary, Malia comes on to the screen to congratulate her mom on another book tour stop. It was a rare and honest look into Malia and Michelle’s relationship.
“On tours, the same things happen over and over again—you travel, you do the thing, you move on,” Hallgren told Vanity Fair. “So it was pretty much any other shoot, and Mrs. Obama was signing books…And so I’m filming Mrs. Obama, and Malia—I didn’t even see her coming—must’ve walked behind me. She came around to talk to her mom, and just said this amazingly thoughtful reflection that she had in that moment.”
You can watch “Becoming” on Netflix now.
Congratulations, Nadia! What a special moment to be a part of.