I Get Educated by The Education of Auma Obama

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Last Friday, before heading out for a Buddhists of Color retreat (more on that later!), I attended opening night of the 8th Annual San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival. The fest opened with “The Education of Auma Obama,” a documentary by mixed, Nigerian-born filmmaker Branwen Okpako about Auma Obama, an impressive scholar-activist who happens to be the Kenyan older sister of our mixed president.

Okay, am I the only mixed girl who didn’t realize that the entire Obama family is mixed? Obama Senior had 3 wives: a young Kenyan girl (Auma’s mother), our President’s mother, and another white American named Ruth who raised their mixed kids in Kenya. Auma herself has a daughter by a white European; one of the Obama brothers lives in China; and I have at least met Maya Soetoro-Ng, the President’s half-Indonesian sister. In comparison, I feel positively pedestrian!

The film incorporates Auma’s own films and home video, including footage of a young Barack and then-fiancee Michelle on their first trip to Kenya, and is structured around the final days leading up to the U.S. presidential election, managing to capture the giddy pride all Africa felt at the prospect of the first black African U.S. president. (A lovely moment is when the family is dancing with cardboard cut-outs of Obama around the grave of his father. Oh, spoiler alert: he wins the election.) Ah, remember how excited we all were, thinking that this was a strike for racial parity, rather than an invitation to public figures to spout their racism in the media with impunity?

Watch African Women in Cinema’s video interview with filmmaker Branwen Okpako.

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