Obama Lists Muslim Filmmakers Among His Favorites of 2023

Obama included both Nida Manzoor’s feature debut "Polite Society" and Mahershala Ali’s Netflix-charting film "Leave the World Behind" among the 14 movies he considers the best of 2023.

Obama Lists Muslim Filmmakers Among His Favorites of 2023
Obama has listed his favorite media of the year every year since 2018, his first full year out of office. Photo source: Center for American Progress Action Fund

In a recent post on social media, former President Barack Obama named “Polite Society” (2023) and “Leave the World Behind” (2023) as two of his favorite movies of the year. Obama has released a list of his favorite books, films and songs at the end of every year since 2018, choosing this year to include both Nida Manzoor’s feature debut and Mahershala Ali’s Netflix-charting film among the 14 movies he considers the best of 2023.

Obama’s top three films of the year were produced by his production company, Higher Ground. One of these films was “Leave the World Behind,” an apocalyptic psychological thriller directed by “Mr. Robot” (2015 – 2019) showrunner and Muslim American producer Sam Esmail and starring Ali. The film, which also stars Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Myha'la Herrold and Kevin Bacon, follows two families as they attempt to make sense of the gradual breakdown technology which points to societal collapse. “Leave the World Behind” is adapted from Rumaan Alam's 2020 bestselling novel of the same name.

Another featured film was “Rustin” (2023), a biopic based on the life of the charismatic and gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (Colman Domingo), who organized the March on Washington in 1963. The third Higher Ground film Obama listed was “American Symphony” (2023), a music documentary following a year in the life of musician Jon Batiste, his music career and his wife's struggle with leukemia. “I’m biased since these movies were produced by Higher Ground,” the President-turned-producer joked in his social media post, “but these are in fact three of the best films I saw this year.”

Later in the list, Obama featured “Polite Society,” Manzoor’s groundbreaking action comedy. The film, which is a merry mash up of sisterly affection, parental disappointment and bold action, follows martial artist-in-training Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) who believes she must save her older sister Lena from her impending marriage. After enlisting the help of her friends, Ria attempts to pull off the most ambitious of all wedding heists in the name of independence and sisterhood. 

In his post, the former politician addressed the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes that affected the film industry in 2023. “Earlier this year, writers and actors went on strike to advocate for better working conditions and protections. It led to important changes that will transform the industry for the better,” Obama wrote in his caption. “[These] films reflect their hard work over the last year.”

You can find the full list of Obama’s favorite films of 2023 at the link below.

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