Aloha, Mr. President

Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:01am

There’s a new film on the way that delves into President Barack Obama’s earliest years in what is arguably the happiest place on earth.

Gloria Borland is a proud Pacific Islander who was born and raised in Hawaii and later came to Washington during the 1970s to work for Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). She’s lingered ever since, dabbling in politics and media as opportunities presented themselves.
Those worlds collided in early 2008 when then-presidential hopeful — and fellow Hawaiian — Obama came under fire because of his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Borland was befuddled that the “media kept misunderstanding [Obama].”

“He’s not the angry black man from Chicago. He’s from Hawaii. He’s got ‘aloha’ in his heart,” Borland said about 44.

She set out to capture that welcoming, island-instilled nature in “Barack Obama: Made in Hawaii.” While she learned the filmmaking ropes by producing a series for PBS showcasing prominent black business leaders, this film marks Borland’s directorial debut. She has devoted four years to the project, wrapping principal photography on the documentary this past May.

As part of her research, Borland trekked across eight states to interview nearly four dozen people from POTUS’s past, including his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, as well as a host of childhood buddies, contemporaries and local leaders.

Although Obama is clearly the focal point, the film celebrates the island specifically and diversity generally.

“In Hawaii, everybody’s mixed race. So when you are raised there, it gives you a different sense of self,” she asserts. Borland’s parents, for instance, were Japanese and African-American.

The film, naturally, touches on the issue of Obama’s birth but doesn’t obsess about it. “It’s not a political film. It’s a historical film,” Borland tells HOH.

Borland has no hard and fast premiere date in mind but did make the rounds at this year’s Silverdocs festival to lay the groundwork for a future release. Her current Kickstarter page lists October 2012 as the “estimated delivery” for the completed project.

Those interested in expediting the process are welcome to open their wallets via Kickstarter. Any pledge of more than $2,500 automatically scores invites to tentative film screenings in D.C. and/or Honolulu. Fork over $10K and Borland will provide a private screening at the location of your choosing.