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Hero’s journey: “Little Obama” Movie Analytical Essay

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Updated: Aug 5th, 2021


From the presidential campaigns and now his leadership, the life travels of Barack Obama have been important for discussion in understanding the forces which shaped his personality and behaviors. Many have suggested that his success in politics stems from the fact that he was a man of many nations. As this movie proves, Obama had a history of living in more than one continent. He had different places to call “home”.

As this movie suggests, the places he lived in, especially when he was a child, had the effect of transforming and shaping him into the personality he is today. In this movie, the character of Obama is the focus. How his stay in Indonesia as a child (possibly) shaped such is the focus of the movie. In the movie, the role played by Obama’s parents in shaping the personality of the young boy is also highlighted.

Thesis: Little Obama depicts how Obama was shaped by his stay in Indonesia into becoming a strong willled, friendly and diplomatic person.

In Little Obama (Obama Anak Monteng), there is no struggle to present Obama the president. Instead, the childhood of Obama is traced in the most probable way it happened. In the movie, young Obama is allowed to be the child he was (Adams 2).

He is allowed to do things which a child would be expected to do (without focusing on him as the future president). As would be the case for any child, the movie presents Obama learning most of his life lessons through play. In the movie, other major characters are the children whom Barry (Obama’s name in the movie) plays with.

As the movie is framed, these characters help the young Obama to understand many things about his life. They help him to search for his own identity. Watching the movie, one realizes the intention of the producers to insist on the point that without this stay in Indonesia, Obama would have probably not encountered the critical questions on his identify as he did.

Besides the idea of Indonesia as the setting for changing his behaviors, the movie also brings out parenting as an important issue. In this regard, the movie, besides highlighting the interactions which the young Obama had with friends, also presents the conversations and interaction with his parents. As the movie confirms, Obama learnt from, and was taught much, by his mother and stepfather.

Little Obama captures the period of Obama’s childhood from six years to when he was ten years. The belief of the movie is that these years were the most important one in laying ground to the character of Obama. The events in the movie happen in Monteng, Jakarta of Indonesia. They occur between the years of 1967 to 1971, indicating a capture of four years of obama’s childhood.

The movie opens when young Obama, referred to in the movie as Barry Obama comes to Indonesia. As it unfolds in the movie, little Obama comes into the country (Indonesia) alongside his mother (Ann Dunham). They were in the country because it was the homeland of the boy’s stepfather (Lolo Soetoro). By extension thus, Obama was coming into Indonesia as his second home because of the fact that his mother had been married to Soetoro (Asia Society 3).

This movie is based on the important elements of pluralism as well as differences. In the movie, scenes are expressly developed to create an experience of thematic learning. In the first scenes, Barry Obama comes to meet difficult question on his identify as a person. Meeting these people for the fist time, one kid asks Barry, “What are you actually? Going by the way Barry is astounded by the question, it comes clear he had not in his life thought about ‘whom’ he indeed was.

This question in the end becomes the main concept on which the whole of the movie develops. In the movie, Barry has to identify who he is because questions on his identity are not dying. In another of such questions, another kid wonders, “westerner, but dark colored…?”. Going by the way he was astonished again, this must also be the first time that Barry has to question himself on the ‘kind’ of a westerner that he was.

It was the first time he had to come into hard questions on his identify as an African-America. The ‘westerner’, which is the reference used by the other kids simply means that they were aware of where Barry and his family had come from. On this ground, it is clear the kids were in some way conscious of the history of westerners including their physical identifies.

In this scene thus, these kids wondered because to them there was no synergy between Barry and ‘westerners’. To Barry, these questions were to linger and disturb the mind. He was to question his identity and the differences he had with the other westerners which had prompted this reaction.

As the movie unfolds, one finds that Barry was being helped to answer questions on his identity. This was especially the case as questions kept coming (from the kids) which forced Barry to think more of ‘who’ he was. Another statement, which was almost a rhetorical question was, “weird hair. Big nose….”. In this scene, this kid was indeed pin-pointing on some of the things which according to them made Barry, a ‘different westerner’. They for example pointed out his hair here.

As the movie unfolds, it comes clear that young Barry (Obama) was learning so many things which besides his belief also related to his attitudes and perceptions. In learning positive attitudes and perceptions, the movie presents Barry’s parents as having played the greatest role.

In one of the scenes, Barry Obama learns from his stepfather on how to do boxing. In this boxing lesson, young Barry is taught by (Lolo Soetoro) his stepfather that in life one has to be strong. He learns that life has to be approached with a complete resolve to defend the self from the extremity by others.

After highlighting the immigration as well as the problems of acceptance by his friends, the movie presents young Obama as finally gelling with these people. At this point, the movie moves to the friends that young Obama had as well as the games they play. Here, the movie moves to the friendship he develops with Slamet (Slamet Djanuadi) and Yuniardi who are other children in the neibourhood.

There are many things that these friends are able to do together. Play is the most important thing they do all the time. In this, the young boys play tennis and another game called marple. These games are seen to be uniting the little Obama more and more with the two friends Yuniardi and Slamet

An event during these games with friends is of worth noting. This is when while playing with his close friends, Barry encounters and does clash with a boy named Carut. Carut belongs to a gang of bullies. In this event, Barry effectively defeats the bullies and shows his fighting (karate) prowess. As he comes out of this event and analyzes it later, young Barry has learnt many important lessons. The most important lesson that the young boy learns is that to fight, “isn’t the solution”.

He learns that conflicts can be amicably resolved. Here, he also learns that differences should not be a cause to war. In the scene, he comes out identifying that violence does not pay and instead is a loss to all parties who would benefit more if they negotiated and made peace. From this fight, Obama learns that besides avoiding war, he also has to accept himself and who he is as different from others.

From the incident, the young Obama learns that opening up and thus sharing is the best path to take. He learns that he has to accept that he has differences with others but has also to respect others who are different from him. In the movie, these lessons on how to live with others do not just come from his own experience. Instead, as the movie presents, they are lessons which are also impacted to him by his mother in the scenes she teaches him to avoid seeking the path of confrontation.

As the movie unfolds, Barry Obama in the end learns who he is and comes out able to appreciate and accept differences. After this full turn-around in personality development, Barry no longer shrinks into himself. He does not discriminate either. This full self-acceptance comes out clearly, when Obama plays with his friends.

He comes out an effective player. He is very good in the game of ping-pong. His friends adore his talents in the game. They like him to play with them more and more. Confidence having been built, young Obama moves beyond his neibourhood. He begins to interact with not only his peers but also well-known people in the locality. As the movie progresses, the young boy is, for example, seen riding on motorbikes with great singsong. At this point, it is clear that the young Obama has developed.

Towards the end of the movie, Barry is seen as having fully adopted to the environment and was now leaving in harmony with his friends and neighbors. He had many friends and was now known to many in the neibourhood. However as this process is happening; the family is engaged in a conflict. The mother and stepfather have to part ways. This makes the beginning of the conclusion to the movie when young Obama is now leaving for United States.


The above discussion proves that Little Obama is a complete depiction on how Obama was shaped by his stay in Indonesia into becoming a strong willled, friendly and diplomatic person. As the discussion identifies, from the discrimination he initially received and the questions he had to answer on who he is, Obama learnt on his identity.

This identity in the end made him believe that he could do anything because the differences he had did not limit him in any way from doing anything that others did. The movie identifies that as he interacted and conflicted, he learnt on the need to take paths of diplomacy. According to the movie, in the country, Obama made friends across the social and cultural divide and thus leant on the need to be friendly.

Works Cited

Adams, Jonathan. Movie about Obama’s childhood opens today. 1/7/2010. Web.

Asia Society. Barack Obama on Film: ane movie reccounts president Barack Obama’s childhood in Indonesia. 21/3/2011. Web..>

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