New Emissary

Obama, the Movie

A new film set in Indonesia portrays Obama as a remarkable kid. But, it’s not a documentary.

Damien Dematra, the man behind the new Barack Obama movie and book that inspired it, calls the US president ‘an icon of pluralism,’ who became that way in large part thanks to his childhood years spent as ‘Barry Soetoro’ in Indonesia.

And the Indonesia-made film, Obama Anak Menteng (or Obama the Menteng Kid) which just premiered in Jakarta this week, is certainly poised to gain more international fans for Obama and his purported pluralistic qualities. It’s slated for global release in the autumn.

The Jakarta Globe quoted one influential fan, the chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak), saying that the film has an important message for young viewers; one that can inspire them and show ‘children in Indonesia about how amazing the power of dreams are.’

Meanwhile, Dematra, who wrote and co-directed Obama Anak Menteng, has stated that in the film, despite first struggling to find acceptance in a place where he is visibly and culturally different, ‘Obama is…able to get along with anyone, regardless of race, religion or skin colour,’ and show that ‘cultural or physical differences are no barrier to forging meaningful friendships’

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It all sounds very moving.

However, it’ll be important for audiences to remember that the almost 2-hour film is, according to Dematra, 60 percent fact and 40 percent fiction. For the original story, which was published as a book in March of this year, Dematra interviewed 30 people who were friends or neighbours of the Obama family during their time in Indonesia from 1967 to 1971 as background research.