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Sankofa (1993)

Haile Gerima, Burkina Faso

Powerful, moving and highly acclaimed, director Haile Gerima’s Sankofa is a masterpiece of cinema that has had a transformative impact on audiences since its release in 1993. This empowering film tells a story of slavery and of the African Diaspora from the perspective of the enslaved, challenging the romanticizing of slavery prevalent in American culture.

Sankofa was developed from 20 years of research into the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the experiences of African slaves in the New World. The film represents complex characters and empowering moments of resilience that assert humanity in the face of subjugation. Unlike Hollywood’s depiction of slavery, Gerima presents the often suppressed history of slave resistance and rebellion and represents the enslaved as agents of their own liberation.

The story begins with Mona (Oyafunmike Ogunlano), an African American model on a fashion shoot at the former slave castles in Cape Coast, Ghana. Mona undergoes a journey back in time and place to a slave plantation in North America where she becomes Shola, a house slave, and experiences the suffering of slavery firsthand. In becoming Shola and returning to her past culture and heritage, Mona is able to recover her lost slave identity and confront her ancestral experience. Shola’s interactions with her fellow slaves are marked with humanity and dignity, most notably with Shango (Mutabaruka), a rebellious field slave, and Nunu (Alexandra Duah), one of the few slaves to remember her life in Africa before being stolen by Europeans.

The film’s narrative structure follows the concept of "Sankofa," an Akan word that signifies the recuperation of one’s past in order to comprehend the present and find one’s future. Allyson Nadia Field, ucla

Duration
119 minutes
Language
OV English
Subtitles
french fix
Video Quality
720p
Available in
Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Germany, Liechtenstein
Haile Gerima
Harvest - 3000 Years (1976)
Haile Gerima
Ethiopia
133′
Director Haile Gerima’s first feature work to be set in Africa employs visions of his native Ethiopia to construct a post-colonial allegory of class exploitation. Filmed in the tumultuous days following the overthrow of Haile Selassie, the portrait of an abject peasant family toiling under the scornful eye of a wealthy landowner exhibits the spontaneity of a documentary. But it also displays the assuredness and authority of a master storyteller in the sweep of its conceptual rigor and moral stand. We are exposed to several characters, as it were, without introduction. They are members of a poor family that rise and begin tending cattle and plowing fields. Their feudal lord, a Western-attired tyrant, barks orders and criticism from a seat on his shaded front porch. Another figure, meagerly dressed, calls out insults to the landowner. These almost archetypal figures take on more specific identities as we learn that the seeming madman once owned property now expropriated and held by the landowner, and that although the peasant family may toil dutifully, its members seethe with memories and visions of another way of life. In time, a critique of modern Ethiopia (and by implication, neocolonial Africa) emerges that criticizes coming political reconfigurations as just the latest way in which others may now exploit the land and the poor. Gerima unfolds several loosely connected episodes (indeed, the "action" of the film often seems trained on an ever-more subtle understanding of certain facts of daily life, rather than on a plot), but the film also employs freewheeling shifts in register, such that political speeches in public spaces contrast with exclamatory addresses to the camera, and verbal abuse of workers alternates with fairly Buñuelian images of human beings being driven by a whip, with no qualification of the "reality" of any situation, all to the accompaniment of an evocative musical soundscape. When the "plot" finally offers its fulfillment, the effect is devastating. In this early work, Gerima strove for something more than an individual story, achieving a bracing polemic and an impassioned narrative of bleak and haunting beauty. Shannon Kelley, ucla
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Teza (2008)
Haile Gerima
Ethiopia
134′
Anberber has studied in Germany and returns post-graduate to Ethiopia. He is full of hope that he can support his country with his newly acquired knowledge. It's a story about hope and disillusionment, about foreignness and homeland.
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