Southside with You

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Southside with You
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Tanne
Written byRichard Tanne
Produced by
CinematographyPat Scola
Edited byEvan Schiff
Music byStephen James Taylor
Distributed by
Release dates
  • January 24, 2016 (2016-01-24) (Sundance)
  • August 26, 2016 (2016-08-26) (United States)
Running time
84 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.5 million[2]
Box office$6.5 million[3]

Southside with You is a 2016 American biographical romantic drama film written, produced, and directed by Richard Tanne, in his feature film directorial debut. The film stars Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter as a young Barack Obama (the future 44th president of the United States), and Michelle Robinson, respectively, and focuses on the couple's first date in 1989.

The film premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where it garnered critical acclaim. It was released theatrically in the United States on August 26, 2016, by Miramax and Roadside Attractions, and grossed over $6.5 million worldwide.


Harvard Law School student Barack Obama, while working as a summer associate at a Chicago law firm in 1989, arranges to meet Michelle Robinson, a young lawyer and his supervisor at the firm ostensibly to go to a community organizing meeting. However when they meet in the morning, he tells her that the meeting is at 4pm and he wants to fill the time till then getting to know each other. She is initially apprehensive because they work together, but agrees.

They visit an African art exhibition at a local art center which features an Ernie Barnes exhibit, and share stories about growing up while walking through a park. At the community organizing meeting, Obama gives a rousing speech which is well-received by the audience including Robinson. In the evening, they view a screening of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, and have their first kiss outside an ice cream parlor in what winds up being their first date.



The original idea was developed by Richard Tanne in 2007, after which he started writing the script.[4] On December 5, 2014, Deadline reported that there would be a romance film titled Southside with You, based on the first date of American President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama, set in Chicago, where the couple met in 1989 and married in 1992.[5] Tika Sumpter would play Michelle, while no one had yet been cast in Barack's role.[6] Tanne would make his directing debut on the film, based on his own script, and producing alongside Tika Sumpter.[6]

On April 10, 2015, IM Global came on board to produce the film with producer Robert Teitel.[7] In April 2015, Sumpter talked with Vulture about her preparations to play Michelle, and stated that she was "nervous" because she was about to play "Michelle Obama, who is everything every woman wants to be," and also said that she was reading some poetry and books to get to know more about Michelle, so she could portray the role better.[8] On May 7, 2015, Parker Sawyers was cast as the young Barack Obama.[9] Producers on the film were Tanne and Sumpter, along with Teitel, through IM Global.[10]


Principal photography on the film began on July 13, 2015 on location in Chicago, Illinois;[11] following that, several websites released photos from the set.[6][10][12] Filming wrapped on July 31, 2015.[11] Locations included downtown, the South Side, and the West Side.[11] Filming was also done on Amstutz Expressway in Waukegan.[13][14]


The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2016.[15][16] Shortly after, Miramax and Roadside Attractions acquired theatrical distribution rights to the film.[17] On April 28, 2016, Miramax released the first official trailer for the film.[18][19] The film was distributed worldwide with theatrical releases in France, Germany, Singapore, UK, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Hong Kong, and parts of the Middle East.[20][21]

Box office[edit]

Southside with You was released in North America on August 26, 2016, and was initially projected to gross around $2 million from 813 theaters in its opening weekend.[22] It ended up grossing $2.9 million, a per-theater average of $3,762.[23][24] The film went on to gross a total of $6.5 million against its $1.5 million budget.[3][2]

Home media[edit]

Southside with You became available on Digital HD on November 29, 2016 and Blu-Ray and DVD on December 13, 2016 from Lionsgate and Miramax.[25] The film became available to stream on Netflix on April 26, 2017.[26] On November 10, 2018, the film had its cable television premiere on BET, airing back-to-back with BET Presents: Love and Happiness: An Obama Celebration, a televised 2016 White House concert that honored the Presidency of Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama.[27]


Critical response[edit]

Southside with You received mostly positive reviews, with praise going to Tanne's direction and screenplay, as well as to the performances of Sumpter and Sawyers. Upon its premiere at Sundance, it immediately garnered positive buzz with Essence writing that "critics gave it two very enthusiastic thumbs up, calling it a classic romance story."[28] On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 91% based on 163 reviews, with an average rating of 7.30/10. The website's critical consensus states, "Southside with You looks back on a fateful real-life date with strong performances and engaging dialogue, adding up to a romance that makes for a pretty good date movie in its own right."[29] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 74 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[30]

Justin Chang of Variety wrote that the film "stands as something unique, even audacious in American independent movies: a fact-based presidential "prequel" that seeks to present two iconic world figures as convincing and relatable romantic leads. And on that particular score, Tanne's movie — toplined by the very well-cast Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers — is pretty much an unqualified success."[31]

Critic Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called it "the date movie of the year," and described it as "gorgeously romantic."[32] Richard Brody of The New Yorker touted Tanne's first film as "an opening act of superb audacity," and described it as "a fully realized, intricately imagined, warmhearted, sharp-witted, and perceptive drama, one that sticks close to its protagonists while resonating quietly but grandly with the sweep of a historical epic."[33]

Odie Henderson of gave the film four-out-of-four stars, stating that it is "at once a love song to the city of Chicago and its denizens, an unmistakably Black romance and a gentle, universal comedy," adding that "it is unapologetic about all three of these elements, and interweaves them in such a subtle fashion that they become more pronounced only upon later reflection."[34]

Stephanie Zacharek of Time described it as a "vivid and imaginative portrayal," and noted of the two lead performances that "Sawyers captures both the easy, loping rhythms of our future 44th President’s speech and the long-stride elegance of his carriage. Sumpter is equally terrific," adding that "she manifests perfectly the future First Lady's under-the-radar determination, always tempered by empathy."[35]

The film was criticized by several critics for what they deemed a hagiographic depiction of Obama,[36][37] while others questioned its authenticity.[38] Fred Topel of opined that Obama comes across as predatory in the film by ignoring Robinson's boundaries, which he did not find believable.[39]

The film was cited on many year-end lists including The New Yorker,[40] The Washington Post,[41] The San Francisco Chronicle,[42] The Hollywood Reporter,[43],[44] The Huffington Post,[45] Mandatory,[46] Applaudience on Medium[47] and Ain’t It Cool News.[48]


Award Date of Ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Chicago Indie Critics January 8, 2017 Best Chicago Film Southside With You Won [49][50]
Seattle International Film Festival June 12, 2016 Golden Space Needle Award for Best Film Southside With You Nominated [51]
Black Reel Awards February 16, 2017 Outstanding Actor, Motion Picture Parker Sawyers Nominated [52]
Outstanding Original Song John Legend Nominated [52]
NAACP Image Awards February 11, 2017 Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Tika Sumpter Nominated [53][54]
Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (Film) Richard Tanne Nominated [53][54]
Indiana Film Critics Association December 4, 2016 Best Picture Southside With You Nominated [55]
Breakout of the Year Parker Sawyers Nominated [55]
Breakout of the Year Tika Sumpter Nominated [55]
Gotham Awards November 28, 2016 Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Richard Tanne Nominated [56][57]
Audience Award Southside With You Nominated [56][57]
Maui Film Festival June 20, 2016 Best First Narrative Feature Richard Tanne Won [58]
Sundance Film Festival January 30, 2016 Grand Jury Prize Richard Tanne Nominated [59]
Rotten Tomatoes Golden Tomato Awards January 12, 2017 Best Reviewed Romance Movie 2016 Southside With You Won [60]


Rotten Tomatoes ranked the film #55 on its list of Top 105 Romance Movies of all time.[61] It also ranked the film #53 on its list of The 123 Best Black Movies of the 21st Century and #14 on its list of 55 Movies That Celebrate Black Joy.[62][63] Entertainment website Collider included the film on its list of The 25 Best Romance Movies of the 21st Century.[64] AARP named it one of the top 12 best movies ever made about U.S. Presidents.[65] Harper's Bazaar cited it as the 41st most Romantic Movie of All Time.[66] Vulture included the film on their list of 20 Best Movies About American Presidents, while Time Out listed it as one of the 27 Best Chicago Movies.[67][68]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Southside with You (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. August 16, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Minnicks, Margaret (September 2, 2016). "What critics say about 'Southside with You' movie based on the Obamas' first date". Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Southside with You (2016)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  4. ^ "'Southside with You' movie tells how Barack wooed Michelle Obama". ABC 7 Chicago. July 28, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  5. ^ Yamato, Jen (December 5, 2014). "Obama Romance Movie In Works – Who Will Play Young Barack?". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c McNary, Dave (December 5, 2014). "Barack and Michelle Obama's First Date Subject of New Movie". Variety. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  7. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (April 10, 2015). "'Jumping The Broom' Producer Joins IM Global, Obama Romance Movie First Project". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
  8. ^ Soo Hoo, Fawnia (April 30, 2015). "How Do You Prepare to Play Michelle Obama?". Vulture. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  9. ^ Vlessing, Etan (May 7, 2015). "Obama Romantic Dramedy Casts Actors for Barack, Michelle Roles". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
  10. ^ a b N'Duka, Amanda (July 14, 2015). "'Southside With You': First-Look At Parker Sawyers & Tika Sumpter As A Young Barack & Michelle Obama". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Metz, Nina (June 25, 2015). "Movie about Obamas' first date to begin filming in Chicago next month". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  12. ^ McNary, Dave (July 14, 2015). "First Look: Parker Sawyers, Tika Sumpter as Barack & Michelle Obama in 'Southside With You'". Variety. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
  13. ^ "Southside With You". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on August 20, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  14. ^ Moran, Dan (July 28, 2015). "Barack, Michelle Obama's first date re-created in Waukegan film shoot". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on June 26, 2021. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  15. ^ "Sundance Institute Completes Feature Film Lineup For 2016 Sundance Film Festival". December 7, 2015. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  16. ^ "Southside With You". Sundance Film Festival. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  17. ^ Seetodeh, Ramin; Lang, Brent (February 12, 2016). "Obama Movie 'Southside With You' Sells to Roadside Attractions and Miramax". Variety. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  18. ^ McNary, Dave (April 28, 2016). "Obamas Go on Their First Date in 'Southside With You' Trailer". Variety. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  19. ^ "Southside With You: Official Trailer (HD) – Tika Sumpter, Parker Sawyers: MIRAMAX". Miramax/YouTube. April 29, 2016
  20. ^ Hipes, Patrick (May 25, 2016). "Miramax's 'Southside With You' & 'Louis Drax' Land UK Distribution; BAFTA To Honor Vidgame Guru Amy Hennig – Global Briefs". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  21. ^ "Southside with You - DVD Release Dates". Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  22. ^ "'Don't Breathe' Could Suffocate 'Suicide Squad' During Sluggish Summer Weekend: Box Office Preview". Deadline Hollywood. August 24, 2016.
  23. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (August 28, 2016). "'Don't Breathe' Screams $26M+ Opening, Gives Sony 3rd Summer Cash Cow After 'Sausage Party', 'Shallows': Early Sunday Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  24. ^ Brueggemann, Tom (August 28, 2016). "Weekend Box Office: 'Hell or High Water' Tops 'Southside With You' | IndieWire". Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  25. ^ "Lionsgate Press Release: Southside With You (Blu-ray)". Blu-ray Movie Discussion, Expert Reviews & News. Archived from the original on October 21, 2016. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  26. ^ "Southside with You - Netflix New Releases". Archived from the original on January 18, 2022. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  27. ^ "BET Premiere (Sunday Morning Grid - 11/4/18)" (PDF). Los Angeles Times.
  28. ^ "'Southside With You' Opens to Rave Reviews at Sundance Film Festival". Essence.
  29. ^ "Southside with You". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  30. ^ "Southside with You reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  31. ^ Chang, Justin (January 25, 2016). "Film Review: 'Southside With You'". Variety. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  32. ^ Travers, Peter (August 24, 2016). "'Southside With You' Review: When Barack Met Michelle". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on August 4, 2020. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  33. ^ Brody, Richard (August 18, 2016). "The Authentic Joy of "Southside with You"". The New Yorker. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  34. ^ Henderson, Odie (August 26, 2016). "Southside With You Movie Review (2016)". Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  35. ^ "Review: Barack and Michelle's First Date, Imagined, in Southside with You". Time. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  36. ^ Toto, Christian (December 13, 2016). "'Southside' Hits Home Video at Very Worst Time". Hollywood in Toto. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  37. ^ Fujishima, Kenji (August 22, 2016). "Review: Southside with You". Slant Magazine. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  38. ^ Olszewski, Tricia (August 26, 2016). "Barack and Michelle Obama's First Date Gets Fictionalized in Southside With You". Washington City Paper. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  39. ^ Topel, Fred (January 2016). "Sundance Film Review: 'Southside With You'". Guff. Archived from the original on February 7, 2016.
  40. ^ "The Best Movies of 2016". The New Yorker. December 9, 2016. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  41. ^ Hornaday, Ann; Hornaday, Ann (December 8, 2016). "The best movies of 2016: 'Moonlight,' 'Manchester by the Sea' and 'Southside With You' make the top 10". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  42. ^ "Micky Awards: Expert panel of 1 picks the best in film". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  43. ^ "Nine Other Worthy Films - Todd McCarthy: The 10 Best Films of 2016". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  44. ^ "The Individual Top Tens of 2016". December 17, 2016. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  45. ^ Brown, Dwight (December 16, 2016). "The Best Films 2016". Huffington Post. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  46. ^ Bibbiani, William (December 12, 2016). "A Year of Empathy | The 16 Best Performances of 2016". Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  47. ^ Pais, Matt (December 20, 2016). "My 10 favorite movies of 2016". Matt Pais. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  48. ^ "Capone unveils his 60 Best Feature Films and 20 Best Docs of 2016". Aint It Cool News. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  49. ^ "Nominations Announced for The First Annual CIC Awards". Chicago Indie Critics. December 29, 2016. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  50. ^ "2016 Awards". Chicago Indie Critics. January 9, 2017.
  51. ^ "Southside with You". Archived from the original on August 13, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  52. ^ a b "17th Annual Black Reel Awards Nominations". Black Reel Awards. December 14, 2016. Archived from the original on December 20, 2016. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  53. ^ a b Lewis, Hilary (December 13, 2016). "NAACP Image Awards: 'Birth of a Nation' Scores 6 Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  54. ^ a b Aiello, McKenna (February 11, 2017). "NAACP Image Awards 2017 Winners: The Complete List". E! Online. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  55. ^ a b c "IFJA 2016 Film Awards Nominated Films and Performances". Retrieved January 14, 2023.
  56. ^ a b Cox, Gordon (October 20, 2016). "Gotham Awards Nominations: 'Manchester by the Sea' Leads With Four". Variety. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  57. ^ a b Setoodeh, Ramin (November 29, 2016). "'Moonlight' Sweeps the Gotham Awards, Winning Best Film". Variety. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  58. ^ "CASE STUDY: The Making of 'Southside With You". Film Independent. March 25, 2020. Retrieved January 14, 2023.
  59. ^ "Sundance Institute Announces Films In Competition and NEXT for 2016 Sundance Film Festival". December 2, 2015. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  60. ^ "Best-Reviewed Romance Movies 2016". Rotten Tomatoes.
  61. ^ "Top 105 Romance Movies". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  62. ^ "The 123 Best Black Movies of the 21st Century". Rotten Tomatoes.
  63. ^ "40 Movies That Celebrate Black Joy". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  64. ^ "The 25 Best Romance Movies of the 21 Century (So Far)". Collider. December 31, 2020. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  65. ^ Nashawaty, Chris. "Best Films About Presidents to Watch on Presidents' Day". AARP. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  66. ^ Janes, DeAnna (February 14, 2021). "The Best Romantic Movies That Will Make You Believe in Love". Harper's Bazaar. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  67. ^ Leitch, Tim Grierson, Will (February 17, 2023). "The 20 Best Movies About American Presidents". Vulture. Retrieved August 13, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  68. ^ "27 Best Chicago Movies, From Rom-Coms to Heart-Pounding Thrillers". Time Out Worldwide. October 17, 2022. Retrieved August 13, 2023.

External links[edit]