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Show of the week: The Clintons and the Obamas: Story of a Rivalry

Nicole Bacharan has been dubbed ‘Miss America’ in the French media for her commentary on transatlantic relations and US affairs.

The French academic, who has written more than a dozen books about US politics and social affairs (including 2014’s Secrets of the White House), captured the attention of the French public when, in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York, she said: “Tonight, we are all Americans”, a phrase subsequently coined by French newspaper Le Monde.

Bacharan has now turned her considerable expertise to TV, co-writing The Clintons and the Obamas: Story of a Rivalry, a doc about the tumultuous relationship between the US Democratic Party’s two most powerful couples. Fittingly, her co-writer was her husband, French journalist and author Dominique Simonnet.

Bacharan says the Obama-Clinton dynamic has fascinated her for some time. “It’s a story I have followed closely for many years; this fascinating interaction between two power couples,” she says. “It is the story of two couples, and four larger-than-life individuals.”

The film starts at the 2004 Democratic convention where Barack Obama’s historic speech marked him out as a potential  presidential candidate. The cameras captured Hilary Clinton’s positive reaction, setting the tone for the first chapter in the relationship between the two. “We start the story then, when they first met publicly,” Bacharan says. “It quickly became clear to the Clintons that this man might be their heir – the protégé to carry on their work, but after them.”

The filmmakers also provide the backstory of each couple. “We have a flashback to how Bill and Barack got there,” Bacharan says. “They are not from wealth, not Ivy League-born, and in each case the wife plays a huge role in what the husband achieves.”

The one-off doc is divided into four parts. The first chapter, titled Trust, covers the 2004-2006 period during which Hilary sees herself as Barack’s mentor. Chapter two, Betrayal, spans 2007-2009, when Obama declared he would run for president without the prior knowledge of the Clintons. The next chapter, Compromise, covers how relations between the Clintons and Obamas were repaired, with Hilary becoming a loyal Secretary of State in the Obama regime. The final chapter is Revenge, in which Hilary is back and, like Barack Obama in the first chapter, running for president.

The 1x52mins doc, which will go out on France 5 later this year, is being made by French prodcos Elephant et Compagnie and Chrysalide Productions, with Paris-based Terranoa handling presales and sales.

With the US elections top of mind this year, the film provides an alternative to campaign-specific coverage, or a simple profile of Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama, says Isabelle Graziadey, Terranoa’s head of sales and acquisitions.

“Our film is really the only one providing a character-driven story around two of the most charismatic presidential couples,” she says. “It links together politics, morals, power, glamour and scandal.”

Terranoa will have a screener at MIPTV, and an English-language version with, Graziadey says, an A-lister narrating.

The show: The Clintons and the Obamas: Story of a Rivalry
The producer: Elephant et Compagnie, Chrysalide Productions
The distributor: Terranoa
The broadcaster: France 5
The concept: One-off doc examining the dynamic between the Clintons and the Obamas