WMU Home > WMU News >

WMU News

Alum's documentary on Obama screened at WMU

Sept. 26, 2008

KALAMAZOO--An award-winning filmmaker who graduated from Western Michigan University will present his latest creation, a documentary on Sen. Barack Obama's trip to Africa, on Friday, Oct. 3, at his alma mater.

Bob Hercules, a graduate of the WMU School of Communication, will show his film at 7 p.m. in Room 1025 of Brown Hall. The presentation is free and open to the public and will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Hercules.

Titled "Senator Obama Goes to Africa," the documentary was shot and produced by Chicago-based filmmakers Hercules and Keith Walker and captures Obama's return to his family's roots on an emotional journey to Africa. Hercules and Walker also produced the award-winning documentary "Forgiving Dr. Mengele," which was previewed last year on the WMU campus.

Part personal odyssey and part chronicle of diplomacy in action, this timely and poignant documentary follows Obama as he travels to the land of his ancestry. From South Africa to Kenya to a Darfur refugee camp in Chad, Obama explores the vast continent that is gaining increasing importance in this age of globalization.

The heart of the film is Obama's emotional homecoming to Kisumu, Kenya--his father's home--where thousands of people turn out to greet him.

In South Africa, the film follows Obama on a trip to Robben Island--the infamous prison where Nelson Mandela was jailed for 21 years. Obama talks about how his own political activism was sparked by the U.S. anti-apartheid movement. Here, Obama and his wife, Michelle, took an AIDS test in public as a symbolic gesture to encourage others to follow suit. They also visited several CARE facilities and ended the trip at the senator's grandmother's house in Siyaya.

At a Darfur refugee camp in Chad, the film shows, through Obama's eyes, the devastating effects of genocide. Viewers hear Obama's discussions with victims of the crisis, U.N. officials, and other aid workers as he explores ways in which the United States can lend support to the victims.

Obama narrates the film, giving his own perspective on the journey and the significance of Africa to U.S. interests. Additional perspective is included through interviews with experts on African affairs as well as with U.S. political commentators.

Hercules is a veteran filmmaker whose documentary "Forgiving Dr. Mengele" won the Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival and a Crystal Heart Award at the 2006 Heartland Film Festival. It is currently in limited theatrical release from First Run Features. His 1999 documentary "The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky and his Legacy" won Best Documentary at the 1999 Philadelphia International Film Festival and was shown on PBS in 2000. Hercules is co-owner of Media Process Group, a Chicago-based production company.

Walker, the documentary's director of photography, is a veteran cameraman whose credits include more than 75 stories shot for CBS' 60 Minutes, numerous stories for 48 Hours, HBO's Real Sports and many PBS documentaries including "Surviving the Bottom Line," "The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky and his Legacy" and "Critical Condition with Hedrick Smith." Walker was also one of the cameramen who shot the Academy Award-nominated documentary "Legacy."

Melissa Sterne served as editor. She is a gifted, story-telling editor whose past work includes "The Fight Over Faith," a CNN Presents production that aired in 2004, "High Tech Lincoln" by Kurtis Productions, which aired on the History Channel in 2005, and her current production, a documentary about the radical Chicago priest Father Mike Pfleger for David Axelrod and Associates.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400