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Malia Obama made her directorial debut at Sundance with a short film 'The Heart'

Malia Obama, the eldest daughter of former President Barack Obama, showcased her directorial debut at last month's Sundance Film Festival, while seemingly opting to use a stage name to distance herself from her father.

Malia Ann Obama attends the 'The Heart' premiere during the 2024 Sundance Film Festival at Prospector Square Theatre on January 18, 2024. [Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images]

But this hasn't stopped reviewers from dismissing her as a "nepo baby".

In the 18-minute short film 'The Heart', Malia is credited with writing and directing under the name Malia Ann, conspicuously omitting her well-known surname.

According to the film's description, it tells the story of a lonely man grieving the death of his mother "after an argument about groceries and an odd request in her will".

The reception on the film-review website Letterboxd has been less than complimentary of the 25-year-old's efforts.


One review said: "Honoring her father's legacy by dropping a giant bomb and not receiving any criticism for it."

Other negative reviews on the website called the short film a "real stinker," a "half-baked short," and "truly dreadful," resulting in an average review of 3.2 out of 5 stars.

Several reviews made charges of nepotism against Malia, with one saying: "Calling yourself 'Malia Ann' is not going to avert any Nepo Baby criticisms, Miss Former First Daughter."

Professional reviews also acknowledged Obama daughter's famous connections. The Daily Beast called the short film "solid but mostly forgettable" in a section called "Nepo Baby of the Week."

The New York Times described it as a "promising debut" before adding: "In-the-know types might wonder if the 'Steven and Kate' thanked in the closing credits are Spielberg and Capshaw, a husband and wife who can ensure a well-connected debut."


One review on Letterboxd added that "it's nice The Obamas took on entire new careers so Malia Obama could be a nepo baby in the right industry."

After his presidency, Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama established Higher Ground Productions, which has since achieved acclaim with an Academy Award in 2020 for the 'American Factory' documentary.

According to Vanity Fair, Donald Glover's production company, Gilga, helped produce 'The Heart'.

Glover, who mentored Malia Obama, told GQ last April that he'd said to her: "You're Obama's daughter. So if you make a bad film, it will follow you around."

Malia Obama has, in fact, been working in the industry since graduating from Harvard. She previously worked as a staff writer on Glover's Amazon Prime series 'Swarm' and as a production assistant on Halle Berry's 'Extant' series, per Vanity Fair.


Before those jobs, she interned on the set of HBO's 'Girls' and at the Weinstein Company in 2017, before the news of the founder's predatory behavior broke.

This article was originally published on Business Insider.


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