Becoming Barack: Evolution of a Leader

A never- before- seen new documentary about the early years of Barack Obama was released a the end of 2009. The 1993 interview with the man that “was destined to make history and become the catalyst for global change” showed a young Obama fresh out of Columbia University embarking in a career of community organization and elective office in Chicago.

In a recent interview with Stuart Goldman, the documentary’s executive producer and Michael Sutton, the music producer, Singersroom talked with both men to find out the reasons behind the fifty minute narrative, “Becoming Barack: Evolution of a Leader,” that not only include some of the now- president earliest recorded interviews, but footage and photos.

Singersroom: For those who are not familiar with your documentary: Becoming Barack, can you give us a few ideas of what the documentary is all about?

Stuart Goldman: The name of the documentary is “Becoming Barak” and there’s also a companion CD of the same name. It’s really a historic documentary and CD. The story is really about young Barak Obama. He had to come from somewhere and most people seem to know little about his background but this [documentary] will really fill in a lot of details about how he find his identity. He had an African father and a white mother from Kansas. He grew up in Hawaii… those are confusion about his identity and racial identity. “Becoming Barak” really tells the story of how he finds his identity and his purpose in life, which really boils down to trying to help people and create a better life to change.

Singersroom: Why did you focus on the early years of Obama?

Stuart Goldman: The project started when I got the rights to what we now confirmed the oldest video tape interview with Mr. Obama. He was a 32- years-old lawyer, two years out of law school, one year married… and I met someone from Chicago, a filmmaker who had put this interview in the closet literally for fifteen years and right after the election, we were all jubilant that Obama had been elected and this came along. So I realized that there was a story in combined with the book “Dreams From My Father.” I realized it was an extraordinary story. So as we got into it we really look at Obama’ story …

Singersroom: What was the time frame like in order to come out with this new project?

Stuart Goldman: It happened very quickly. I found the interview November of 2008 [and] I met up Michael Sutton who owns Little Dizzy Company in December 2008 and by January we had a deal and started production. Michael’s company help to finance the production and it is also the distributor of the DVD. So we finish it around June (2009) and it was release on DVD on November of 2009.

Singersroom: Why is the documentary appealing to young people?

Stuart Goldman: Young kids (of all races) really embrace him, they were drawing pictures of him, they had scrapbooks … and this really fascinated me as a filmmaker. So naturally when the project became real with the lost interview and the financing, it was an opportunity to really look at the ways that Obama has impressed people and why, and where he came from. So I think for young people he was already a role model and people of all ages, they really appreciate where he’s coming from…But as far as why the documentary and the CD will be appealing… Obama’s Story is an universal story meaning that everybody has frustration, everybody has confusion… as they trying to figure out what they will do with their lives and their career. Obama was that same person, when he finished college … he talked about how confused he was. He had a family in Africa that he didn’t know anything about; he barely knew his father… and you don’t have to be a teenager, you don’t have to be of college age … so we feel that young people can really relate to him. Because here’s a story with an incredible ending, meaning he became president.

Michael Sutton: Here you have someone running for office who still maintains his coolest and he didn’t lose his identity in the process… Hopefully a lot of young people [will] see it as their own story.

Becoming BarackSingersroom: What’s the difference between your documentary and what’s already out there?

Stuart Goldman: I think that our documentary is the real deal. There are many other documentaries that cover his life story but the period that we really focus on roughly 1985 to 1995 we take almost the all hour, others might take 5 to 10 minutes… more than that we have contacted and interviewed most of the individuals who worked with Obama, knew Obama during his formative years. These were religious figures and community organizers people that he worked for or really directed. What’s different about it is that we been getting some great review… this is a detail story and it’s not hype and it’s not exploitative. We talked to this people and they’d given their feelings honestly… And that’s really the theme that comes out in our documentary.

Michael Sutton: The documentary is a detail experience in the neighborhood. This is Chicago, the most challenging places people had to live, and they had to deal with asbestos problem and so for… broken windows, broken pipes… and Obama was right in the nitty gritty of these neighborhoods working with people and [a lot of people] from the majors cities can relate to that.

Singersroom: What did you learned from this journey?

Stuart Goldman: I knew Obama like everyone else from media reports and clips… but after getting involved in the production of this documentary, I realized that he’s not just a nice guy, smart guy. This is an extraordinary human being who has the power to… make an impression on people, lasting impression. How many figures in history can you recall, especially how many presidents in the last 50 years have we had inspired young people for example. I am old enough to remember Kennedy and … there’s no one I can think of in between… but that’s really what I came away with after making the documentary and … this is a guy who is facing now the challenges of our planet… And now Obama is operating on a world scale and hopefully people will appreciate what he’s trying to do.

Singersroom: Did you screen it for the president?

Stuart Goldman: I am sure that he will see it some days.

Singersroom: Let’s talk about the soundtrack, what was the process like trying to figure out which songs should be on the disc?

Michael Sutton: Actually Stuart mentioned several artists who had some great songs during that time and the one that stood out was Curtis Mayfield…and we got in the studio and started working [with] the musicians and started laying down some basic tracks…To make the story short we took all the songs… which was about ten at first and we added three more from different artists… and we used that in and out the film and they work perfectly…

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—— By: Valerie Varasse


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