Malia Obama at Sundance: A Fledgling Filmmaker Makes Her Debut

If you’re a familiar face aiming for a fresh start, the Sundance Film Festival might be your perfect stage. Whether you’re a superhero from the Marvel universe seeking a more intimate role or a teen movie star looking to venture into adult themes, this snowy festival is the ideal venue to introduce a new chapter.

This year, a particularly seamless rebranding went almost unnoticed by many at Sundance. A quiet yet intriguing 18-minute short film called “The Heart” was showcased, attributed to a budding filmmaker named Malia Ann. However, more people might recognize her by her full name, Malia Obama, the daughter of former president Barack Obama.

At 25 years old, Malia Obama is not a novice in the world of Hollywood. She interned at the Weinstein Company in 2017, pursued her passion for filmmaking at Harvard in their visual and environmental studies program, and upon graduating, contributed as a writer to the Amazon series “Swarm.” This show was co-created by Donald Glover, who has taken on a mentor role in Obama’s burgeoning career. Glover, also an executive producer of “The Heart,” expressed his early advice to her, “The first thing we did was talk about the fact that she will only get to do this once,” Glover shared with GQ last year. “You’re Obama’s daughter. So if you make a bad film, it will follow you around.”

The film “The Heart” tells a unique and captivating story. Joshua, the protagonist, is weighed down by guilt and the poignant task of carrying a jar with his mother’s preserved heart, a request she made in her will. As he struggles to cope with his loss, he meets a stranger who bears a striking resemblance to his late mother. Determined to communicate those unsaid thoughts to this stranger, Joshua learns valuable lessons about self-compassion and accepting his own imperfections.

In a “meet the artist” video released by Sundance, Obama shared her inspiration behind creating and directing this thought-provoking, touching story. She hoped that viewing her short film might make audiences “feel a bit less lonely, or at least reminds you not to forget about the people who are.”


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