Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance on Thursday night at the New Orleans premiere of American Symphony, Matthew Heineman’s Netflix documentary feature about musician Jon Batiste and his wife Suleika Jaouad, on which she and Barack Obama are credited as executive producers. Heineman, Batiste and Jaouad were also in attendance.
“I am thrilled to be here in New Orleans with all of you to celebrate this amazing film that we are so, so honored and proud to be a part of,” the former first lady and current partner in Higher Ground Productions said front of a crowd of some 1,000 locals at the famed Orpheium Theaterin. “And there’s no better place to lift up this work than in the city where music is at the heart of everything, because music is at the heart of this film.” She continued, “American Symphony opens us all up to the power and inevitability of music. Yet this film is about so much more than one man’s meteoric rise. It is the story of two souls — Jon and Suleika — on parallel paths.”
Obama also took a moment to acknowledge Heineman: “In American Symphony, Matthew employs the same raw and discerning approach that he has used in previous projects covering Syrian activists standing up to brutality or civilians rising up against drug cartels. In doing so, Matthew shows us that human bravery exists in many forms, even in concert halls and cancer wards. So I want to thank Matthew and his entire team for their extraordinary work bringing this story to life with compassion, nuance, and real heart. Like the subjects of his film, he has a gift for showing us what lies inside us all, even if we can’t express it ourselves.”
Batiste, a member of a New Orleans musical dynasty, was also welcomed back as a hometown hero, and the city issued an official proclamation declaring Friday “Jon Batiste Day.”