Exit West

Barack and Michelle Obama have reportedly found their next producing project. The duo will team up with Anthony and Joe Russo (Avengers: Endgame) to produce Exit West, a feature film adaptation of author Mohsin Hamid’s bestselling novel, and Riz Ahmed (The Night OfRogue One: A Star Wars Story, Nightcrawler) is currently attached to star. Here’s what we know so far.

Collider has multiple sources telling them that former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama will be joining forces with the Russo brothers as producers on a Netflix movie adaptation of Exit West, which will be directed by Yann Demange and written by Jessica Goldberg, who just wrote the Russos’ next directorial project, Cherry (also a Netflix movie), and created the Hulu series The Path. Here’s how Collider describes the plot of Hamid’s book:

Exit West tackles the global refugee crisis and takes place in an unidentified country in the Middle East, where young Saeed and burqa-wearing Nadia flee their home after Saeed’s mother is killed by a stray bullet stemming from violent clashes between guerrillas and the local government. The couple joins other migrants traveling to safer havens via carefully guarded doors. Through one door, they wind up in a crowded camp on the Greek Island of Mykonos. Through another, they secure a private room in an abandoned London mansion populated mostly by displaced Nigerians. A third door takes them to California’s Marin County. In each location, their relationship is tested by their struggle to find food, adequate shelter and a sense of belonging among emigrant communities. The allegorical tale shows the contrast between the migrants’ tenuous daily reality and that of the privileged native population who’d prefer that they disappear.

This sounds like it has tons of potential and could be a great showcase for Riz Ahmed, who has slowly been building an excellent body of work since breaking out ten years ago in the terrorism comedy Four Lions. Netflix’s quest to win prestigious Academy Awards was significantly stymied last year; with its topical subject matter and the Obamas’ name attached, could this be a potential Oscar player once it’s completed?

Unless they acquire another project before this one is completed, this should be the first narrative feature for the Obamas’ Higher Ground production company, and it sounds like their most creatively interesting project thus far. The couple transitioned into producing post-White House, signing a deal with Netflix and putting their names behind movies like American Factory (which won an Oscar for Best Documentary) and the upcoming Crip Camp (which went over very well at this year’s Sundance Film Festival).

Collider says that The Imitation Game‘s Morten Tyldum was originally attached to direct Exit West, which was on Barack Obama’s best books of 2017 list, but now it’ll be helmed by Yann Demange, who directed White Boy Rick and ’71 and was being considered to direct the James Bond movie that would eventually become No Time to Die. Meanwhile, Cherry, which stars Tom Holland and is directed by the Russos, is expected to arrive on Netflix sometime in 2020.

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