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President Obama’s Mother, Ann Dunham, Movie Optioned

Women pioneers are rarely recognized, and such is the case with Ann Dunham. Her pioneering work in women's microfinance would probably not be recognized if her son had not become the President of the United States. But her story is one of thousands yet to be shared on the big screen.

"Surviving Against The Odds," The Only Book Authored by President Obama’s Mother, Ann Dunham, Optioned by Producers of Film Documenting Her Life’s Story

Charles Burnett is set to direct “Surviving against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia," the only book authored by Stanley Ann Dunham, the mother of President Barack Obama

The President's mother's story has been optioned from Duke University Press by the producers of an upcoming film documenting her life.

The film, “Stanley Ann Dunham: A Most Generous Spirit,” is the first to shed a spotlight on the mother of President Obama and her extraordinary life from her childhood in Kansas to the 14 years she spent in Indonesia as an anthropologist and rural development executive.

The film will be directed by celebrated filmmaker Charles Burnett (“Killer of Sheep,” “To Sleep With Anger”).

Dunham - Pioneer of Microfinance for Women

Dunham, who died in 1995 from ovarian cancer, was a pioneer in the movement known today as microfinance. During her work for the U.S. State Dept., the Ford Foundation and Women’s World Bank , among other institutions, Dunham identified women as playing a critical role in the success of the micro-lending movement.

Her observations of businesses in rural Indonesia in the 1970s and 1980s became the basis of her 1992 doctoral dissertation and “Surviving Against The Odds,” published last November. Today, more than 90 percent of microfinance loans are to women.

Dunham's daughter and President Obama's half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who wrote the book's foreword, said in a statement that “My hope is that this book will be read by those who come to love the particularities of its world and who also see the myriad potential application of its ideas and methods to other worlds."

President Obama has stated his mother was the most influential figure in his life and in his acceptance of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, dedicated the award to the memory and work of his mother.

Dunham met Barack Obama, Sr., a Kenyan graduate student, while they were both studying at the University of Hawaii in 1960. She gave birth to their only child together, Barack Obama, Jr., on August 4th, 1961. Soon after, Barack Obama, Sr. left his family in Hawaii to continue graduate studies at Harvard University. They divorced soon after, and Dunham raised Barack, Jr. mainly as a single parent (with assistance from her parents).

The book has been praised widely by scholarly journals and the popular press alike. Anthropology Quarterly commented that “this book -- an estimable ethnography in its own right -- is of unique interest precisely. . . for the light it sheds on how Dr. Dunham’s work may have shaped her son and, thereby, his presidency.” Asia Times said "'Surviving Against The Odds' is a testament to [Dunham’s] lifelong passion for working for the development of rural populations around the world." David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker and author of "The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama" wrote of Dunham’s book that it "reveals, in its study of a single village, the dense textures of culture inherent in any one place…. [One] cannot help admiring...the industry of Ann Dunham."

According to the film’s director Burnett, "the book provides a treasure trove of material not only into Dr. Dunham’s groundbreaking work in microfinance, but also to the values and ideals she held dear, and instilled in her children."

The film, produced by Carolyn Schroeder and Greg Ptacek, is currently in development (02-2011).


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