HBO—Nearly a year before Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency on Feb. 10, 2007, filmmakers Amy Rice and Alicia Sams began to roll cameras on the young senator. Over the next 19 months, they found themselves traveling all across the country, chronicling the daily ups and downs of the campaign trail as experienced by Obama, his family, his staff and volunteers. While Obama’s meteoric rise to the White House has been well documented in the press, few have witnessed the behind-the- scenes story of the passionate campaigners who helped a young African-American freshman senator attain the nation’s highest office.Rice conceived the idea of making a documentary about Obama long before the Illinois Senator announced his decision to run for president. Inspired by his oratorical skills and star appeal at the 2004 Democratic Convention, she set out to film his political career in 2006. Rice approached documentary producer Sams, who joined to co-direct and actor Edward Norton’s production company, Class 5, agreed to produce the project. After Norton approached Obama’s team with the idea, the senator agreed to grant the filmmakers what turned out to be unprecedented and exclusive access.
“Initially, it wasn’t even about a presidential campaign; the idea was simply to examine the political experience of a promising young politician of our generation,” says Norton, a two-time Oscar® nominee.
For Rice, the project had an even more personal dimension. She lost her older brother in the Sept. 11 attacks on the Twin Towers – an event that galvanized her political awakening. Then she saw Obama’s 2004 convention speech on TV. Rice recalls, “That’s when the idea of making a political documentary came into my mind.”
Notes Sams, “It was clear that Obama was inspiring people to think differently about politics. We wanted to explore his impact and see where it would take both him and the country.”
From this unique vantage point, By The People captures the boundless fervor of the campaign’s volunteers, as well as the extraordinary skill and technical sophistication of its organizers. “I think people will look back on this campaign as one that was conducted with a real understanding of communication and organizing tools that were singular to that moment,” says Norton. “It was an historic new read on how you could do an end run around conventional political methodology and strategies.”
Premieres November 3 at 9pm ET
By The People: The Election of Barack Obama is a moving record of the Obama campaign’s history-making odyssey to the White House. Interwoven with the drama of the campaign is never-before-seen footage of Obama behind the scenes, as well as interviews and candid moments with wife Michelle Obama, the couple’s young daughters, Malia and Sasha, and senior campaign staff, volunteers, reporters, supporters and opponents. Watch the trailer.