The Education of Auma Obama – A documentary film by Branwen Okpako

This is a follow up on one of our previous postings on the African Movie Academy Awards 2012, where we cross-posted the results of the winning films. We are here highlighting the winning Diaspora Documentary by Branwen Okpako: “The Education of Auma Obama”.

Auma Obama has always been an activist for social justice and especially towards a balanced depiction of Africa in the northern hemisphere.

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Branwen Okpako skillfully composed a film that tells many stories, narrated by Auma Obama herself. It is a documentary about colonial times and freedom in Kenya; Auma talks about her experiences in Germany – many of which she shares with Branwen, the film director – the balancing between two very different cultures. The patchwork family of the Obamas and how Barack Obama Jr. comes to Kenya for the first time, which to him opens a whole new chapter in his family tree of life.

However, what is actually most important to both Auma and Branwen is to get across the key message of the film: how the West portraits Africa both in society and politics, and how this picture needs to grow into something much more diverse – obviously also with positive aspect beyond stunning landscapes and animal wildlife.

The film is mostly situated in Auma’s home village Kogelo, near Lake Victoria in Kenya during the days before and during the election ceremony in the US.

[…] as an African, I always feel like we’re not just us. We are ourselves and our ancestors. And everything we say and everywhere we go they’re with us; and they are taking us there as well. […] It’s almost the solution to our conflicts as Africans: This connection. As long as we keep that connection to our ancestors – as long as we keep the roots intact, we can’t really go wrong. Not in the long run.


A compelling character sketch of the internationally-educated half-sister of President Barack Obama.

Born of the same father but raised by a different mother in the family’s Kenyan compound, Auma describes a life of intellectual inquiry and social activism that mirrors the future president’s. Auma’s tale begins with mother Kezia, who recalls her 1955 meeting with her eventual husband, Barack, Sr. whose father was a tough taskmaster, but provided a standard of living above that of most their neighbors.

Auma’s viewpoint on her father’s departure to America, and the new life he made for himself, is colored with pain, but the separation was eventually healed with her half-brother’s Kenyan visit (shown in some wonderful homemade footage of a very young Obama and later revisiting with Michelle).

Auma is depicted as a brave and determined woman who has thought very deeply about gender issues and politics, and traces her life as an academic, a dancer, and someone who is making a great contribution to Kenyan life today. Throughout the story, the post-colonial conditions are explored, shedding much light on the identity of Barack Obama, Sr.

Auma currently resides in her native Kenya, working with youth to encourage political and social engagement, carrying on the tradition of her Freedom Fighter father. Particular interest is paid to the Obama homestead in Kenya during the run-up to the 2008 US Presidential elections and the joyful election night that brought her brother Barack Obama to power.

A wonderful and absorbing study of African female achievement as well as an opportunity to see the President in a totally different perspective, allowing viewers a new an appreciation of his African roots.

Here is an interview with Branwen Okpako, director of “The Education of Auma Obama” (with a clip from the film). She’s talking about some of the making of the film and her motivation behind:

Selected Media Response

Branwen Okpako’s The Education of Auma Obama is a captivating and intimate portrait of the U.S. president’s older half-sister, who embodies a post-colonial, feminist identity. (…) It is also a film about a generation of politically and socially engaged Africans whose aspirations are informed by their parents’ experiences, and whose ambition to forge a better future for their communities starts from the ground up.


Written and directed by: Branwen Okpako
Director of photography: Kolja Brandt
Additional camera: Marcus Winterbauer, John Podpadec
Sound: Ulla Kösterke, Jürgen Schönhoff, Patrick Veigel
Music: Jean-Paul Bourelly
Editor: Branwen Okpako
Production: Katrin Springer and Volker Ullrich
Commissioning editor: Jörg Schneider (ZDF/ Das kleine Fernsehspiel)

A feature documentary on the life and times of Auma Obama told from her homestead in Kenya during the run up to the 2008 US Presidential elections that brought her brother Barack Obama to power.

Germany 2011, 79 minutes, a coproduction of Filmkantine/ZDF/Branwen Okpako
supported by Rombach & Partner and PICTORION das werk

World premiere at Toronto International Film Festival 2011
Download presskit here

More information

… about Branwen Okpako and her work:

… about Auma Obama and her work:

… about the film:

Explore our African Film gallery

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