Malia Obama has been labeled a ‘nepo baby’ after presenting her directorial debut

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Malia Obama is facing accusations that she's relied on her connections to launch her filmmaking career.

Obama, the daughter of former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, presented a short film called “The Heart," which she wrote and directed, at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 18.

Though the 25-year-old filmmaker released the movie under the stage name Malia Ann, critics are questioning whether the film, which was previously screened at the Telluride Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival, would have nabbed a Sundance slot if Malia Obama weren’t a former first daughter.

President Obama in Chicago (Brian Cassella / Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
President Obama in Chicago (Brian Cassella / Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Critics are accusing Obama of being a 'nepo baby'

While some online critics are accusing Obama of trying to hide the fact that she's well-connected because of her parents, others are coming to her defense.

"Obama’s daughter trying to sneak past Nepo baby discourse by not using her last name. Bro you are Obama’s Daughter," one critic wrote on X.

Another critic pointed out that the the younger Obama's resume already includes several Hollywood dream jobs.

"Her 'entertainment career' is so funny. She interned on Girls at 15, interned with Weinstein at 18 (just months before the s--- went down), and then writes for a Donald Glover show at like 24 without a single writing credit, and now immediately gets her first short in Sundance," someone else wrote.

Still, others came to Malia Obama's defense, pointing out that she's long dreamed of making movies. She studied filmmaking at Harvard University as a visual and environmental studies major before landing a job writing for the Amazon series “Swarm."

"So she worked 3 jobs in entertainment and went to college? And that’s what we know about. But that’s not good enough?" asked someone on X. "Would you be happier to see her fail? I suppose that’s the case."

Others in Hollywood have changed their names

A handful of people who defended Malia Obama on X did so by referencing the many people in Hollywood who eschewed using their family’s famous surnames when launching their own careers.

The list includes including Oscar winner Nicolas Cage, whose shares his real last name, Coppola, with his famous uncle, Academy Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola, and Oscar winner Angelina Jolie, whose real name is Voight, like her Oscar-winning dad, actor Jon Voight.

“She might not be trying to sneak past nepo talk, she might just want her own identity outside of her very famous family,” one person wrote of Obama.

What is ‘The Heart’ about?

Th 18-minute movie tells the story of a man named Joshua (Tunde Adebimpe) who struggles with guilt after his mother (LaTonya Borsay) dies following an argument the two had about groceries.

What has Obama said about 'The Heart'?

In a “meet the artist” video released by Sundance, Obama said her short film is about "lost objects and lonely people and forgiveness and regret."

"But I also think it works hard to uncover where tenderness and closeness can exist in these things,” she added.

Obama also said she hoped that watching the movie "makes you feel a bit less lonely, or at least reminds you not to forget about the people who are."

What are film critics saying about ‘The Heart’?

While “The Heart” has taken a few jabs in the media — The Daily Beast called the film “solid but mostly forgettable” in a section titled “Nepo Baby of the Week,” a reviewer for The New York Times called the movie a “well-shot” and “promising” debut.

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