Barack Obama’s Kenyan half-sister is the subject of a documentary screened last week at the New York African Film Festival.
“The Education of Auma Obama” was shot at various locations in Kenya and Europe by Branwen Opkapo, a Nigerian director. The film will debut in Nairobi in November at the Kenya International Film Festival, Ms Opkapo said in an interview following its showing in New York on April 12.
She explained that she became friends with Ms Obama while both were studying at the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin in the 1990s. Ms Opkapo said it was during a visit to Kenya in 2007 that she persuaded Ms Obama to allow a movie to be made about her life.
Ms Opkapo then set out to capture on film “what it is that makes up a person — politically, socially, culturally.”
Another Kenyan, Monica Wangu Wamwere, was the subject of another documentary shown at the same venue that day. CineArts Africa founder and director Jane Munene tells the story of Kenya’s “second liberation” by focusing on the mother of longtime political activist Koigi wa Wamwere.
In an interview after the film, Ms Munene said it took her three years to complete the documentary, Monica Wangu Wamwere: Unbroken Spirit.
The delay was partly occasioned by the difficulty in obtaining archival footage of protests in the 1990s by the mothers of political prisoners, Ms Munene explained. She hopes to premiere the movie next month in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa.
But it was the film on Ms Obama that connected with the audience in the country of which her brother is president. Someone asked after the screening whether Ms Obama might run for president of Kenya. “Auma has no interest in party politics,” Ms Opkapo replied.
Ms Obama was born in Kenya in 1960 to Barack Obama Snr and his first wife, Kezia Nyandega. But she was mainly raised by Obama Snr’s third wife Ruth Ndesandjo, who had moved to Kenya from the United States.
Auma Obama studied linguistics and dance at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, becoming a fluent German speaker, as the film shows.
Today, Ms Opkapo said, she works as a mentor to young Kenyans, seeking to persuade them to develop opportunities in rural areas rather than migrating to cities.
The film takes place mainly at the Obama family homestead in Kogelo in early 2008 in the days preceding her half-brother’s election.