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. An academic overachiever, she studied linguistics and contemporary dance in Heidelberg, Germany, before enrolling in film school in Berlin, where she met Nigerian-born director Okpako in the nineties.
After living in the United Kingdom for a short period, Auma Obama eventually moved back to Kenya to mentor a young generation of community activists, social workers and other ambitious young men and women who lacked her privileged education and training, but were nonetheless determined to make a positive contribution to their society.
Okpako has always been interested in questions of identity, affiliation and belonging. Although she frames her film as a biographical portrait of Obama, she goes much further, providing a layered historical context and discussions of postcolonial African identity from a feminist perspective. Okpako collects testimonies almost exclusively from women, echoing the African tradition of women as chroniclers of oral history. When coupled with these accounts, Okpako's use of archival footage — filmed during colonization for an entirely different purpose — offers a new reading of history and the present. Obama is also the daughter of a charismatic man who fought for the liberation of his country and participated in the shaping of the first years of independence. She witnessed his hopefulness and rise as well as his disillusionment and demise, coming into adulthood as her country — and continent — fell prey to despotism, corruption and poverty.
The Education of Auma Obama 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.