Obama-produced documentary snubbed in Oscar nominations

By Jen Krausz on
 January 24, 2024

When Oscar nominations came out on Tuesday, the Obama-produced Netflix documentary American Symphony was noticeably absent from mentions even though it was expected to be a favorite.

The only nomination the film received was for original song: “It Never Went Away” by Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson.

The documentary was considered a favorite for the 94th annual honors. It wasn't clear why it did not receive any significant recognition.

Michelle Obama even held a special screening of the movie last month to campaign for its nomination, but it seems that the Academy decided to honor lesser known offerings instead.


The documentary chronicles Batiste's efforts to write an orchestral symphony while dealing with his wife's cancer relapse. It was directed by Matthew Heineman.

A precious documentary produced by the Obamas under their Higher Ground label as part of their ongoing deal with Netflix, American Factory, won the category in 2020.

The Oscars also overlooked another favorite in the documentary category: Apple’s Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie also did not get nominated in the category.

Still looked at Fox's decades-long battle with Parkinson's Disease.

Other content

The Obamas' Netflix deal is said to be worth $65 million over several years. Here is some of the other content they have produced for the streaming service:

  • The G Word with Adam Conover
  • We the People
  • Waffles & Mochi content for children
  • The Light We Carry special with Oprah Winfrey
  • Working: What We Do All Day
  • Leave the World Behind

After this Oscars snub, however, Netflix may be rethinking its alliance with the former first couple.

The couple already exited their deal with Spotify in October 2022, but that was said to be because the Obamas were frustrated they weren't getting wider distribution for their podcast.


Their latest film, Leave the World Behind, caused controversy because it featured a character telling her Black father not to trust white people if the world falls apart.

The controversy caused people to call the movie "woke" and say that it espoused "white racism."

It probably contributed to the movie's fleeting popularity, however.

For a short time, the movie was number one on Netflix, possibly because people wanted to see what the controversy was about or maybe because it featured several major stars.

It was pointed out that Barack Obama personally consulted on the movie and didn't raise an issue with the character's comments.

Most people quickly moved on from the controversy, however.

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