Branwen Okpako was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1969. She received a BSC in political sciences from Bristol University, England, in 1991, followed by MFA equivalent in film directing from the German Film & Television Academy, Berlin, in 1999. Her graduation documentary Dreckfresser (2000), about the first Black East German policeman, won several prestigious international awards. In 2003, she released her full-length fiction feature debut, Tal der Ahnungslosen, about a 40-year-old woman who revisits a Dresden orphanage where she grew up, intent on discovering her identity in this noir thriller. The film had its world premiere at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival and went on to compete at the 2005 FESPACO. Her documentary Die Geschichte der Auma Obama, a captivating, intimate portrait of the US president’s Kenyan half-sister, Auma Obama, sparked international attention. In 2010, Okpako visited the (East) German author Christa Wolf to discuss a film project based on Wolf’s novel Medea: A Modern Retelling.
This documentary-drama Fluch der Medea was premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. Okpako is the scriptwriter of all her films as well as editor.
Director Branwen Okpako has also ventured into other artistic fields. For the 2013 Berlin ifa gallery exhibition The Space Between Us, Branwen Okpako created the video installation Christa/Christopher, a fictitious dialogue on two monitors between author Christa Wolf and poet Christopher Okigbo. Both were intellectually and politically active in their respective context—in the GDR, and in Nigeria during the Biafra war—until they were denounced as dissidents. Since 2002, Okpako has also worked as the theater director.
Branwen Okpako is an Associate Professor at UC Davis in the Department of Cinema and Digital Media and is currently completing her feature film Chibok Girls based on the 2016 book of the same title by Helon Habila.
The DEFA Film Library with support of the Goethe-Institut Boston presented a retrospective of Okpako’s films during the Black Lives in Germany: Resilience, Art, Hope festival in 2021. The retrospective took place in tandem with an extensive discussion with the director. A recording of the discussion is available in the DEFA Film Library’s FILMBOX.
Festivals & Awards:
|2022||Retrospective The Film Library of Branwen Okpako, Black German Heritage and Research Association conference, USA|
|2021||Retrospective Black Lives in Germany: Resilience, Art and Hope, Amherst, USA|
|2012||Winner of the Festival Founders Award Documentaty for Die Geschichte der Auma Obama, Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival, USA|
|2011||Nominee Muhr AsiaAfrica Award for Die Geschichte der Auma Obama, Dubai International Film Festival, UAE|
|2001||Winner of the Bavarian Documentary Award for Dreckfresser, Munich Film Festival, Germany|
|2001||Best Graduation Film for Dreckfresser, See Docs Dubrovnik Festival, Croatia|
|2000||Winner World Distribution Award for Dreckfresser, DOK Leipzig, Germany|
|2000||Winner First Steps Award for Dreckfresser, Germany|
|2021||Branwen Okpako on Black Stories & Diaspora (discussion)|
|2014||Der Fluch der Medea (The Curse of Medea, doc.)|
|2011||Die Geschichte der Auma Obama (The Education of Auma Obama, doc.)|
|2003||Tal der Ahnungslosen (Valley of the Innocent, TV)|
|2000||Dreckfresser (Dirt for Dinner, TV, doc.)|
|1997||Searching for Taid (short, doc.)|
|1996||Market Forces (short)|
Vorspiel (Audition, short)
|1993||Frida Film (short)|
|1992||Probe (Test, short)|