The Accuracy Of The Obamas' First Date Film

by Jenn Ficarra

There are plenty of things about President Obama's time in the White House that would make for a great film — his election, for one. But who would have guessed that the first movie to come out about Barack Obama wouldn't have anything to do with his presidency at all? That's right, Southside With You tells the story of Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama's first date in the summer of 1989 in Chicago. But unlike their time in the White House where most of their every move is recorded, there's no way to tell exactly what happened on their first date, right? How accurate could Southside With You actually be?

"About 90 percent accurate," according to writer/director Richard Tanne. Tanne sourced the information for the film from interviews, videos, and public record articles — whatever he could get his hands on, really. At a Q&A for the film, according to Vanity Fair, Tanne acknowledged that even though the film is about 90 percent accurate "there wasn't a note taker on the dates, so you just have to extrapolate from what's there." And even though it's still a fictional account, Tanne tried to be as realistic and authentic as he possibly could when writing the script.

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The film, starring Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter as the future President and First Lady, respectively, chronicles that one fateful day in the summer of 1989. Starting their "non-date-date" at the Art Institute of Chicago, the pair then moved on to lunch, a viewing of Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing and ice cream at Baskin-Robbins where they had their first kiss. One element of the date that's disputed is the community meeting, which Tanne mentioned may or may not have happened that day. About the meeting, Tanne said,

"There was some question as to whether or not the community organizing meeting happened on the first date, or if it just happened early in the courtship but dramatically it worked, so I just put it in."

The film even has small details right, like the fact that Barack did, in fact, drive a beat-up yellow Datsun with a hole in the floor. In the trailer for Southside With You , Michelle is hesitant to "date" Barack because she's concerned about what it might say to the senior partners at the firm where she was his adviser. This is also true. Overall, it seems as if Tanne's film is about as accurate as a "fictionalized" account could be. While, naturally, the dialogue will be mostly fictionalized and some elements will have been dramatized for story purpose, overall, Southside With You is a pretty accurate portrayal of the First Couple's first date.

Image: Miramax/Roadside Attractions