Campus News

‘Sankofa’ – a Film that Goes Back to the Past – Twice

Filmmaker and HU professor Haile Gerima’s groundbreaking film, “Sankofa,” received a restoration and re-release on Netflix this Fall, 27 years after its initial release.

Still image from Sankofa movie

Filmmaker and HU professor Haile Gerima’s groundbreaking film, “Sankofa,” received a restoration and re-release on Netflix this Fall, 27 years after its initial release. When Gerima first produced the film, it swept up awards and nominations, including from the Berlin Film Festival, African Cinema Festival, AFI Film Festival, FESPACO Pan-African Film Festival, among others. However, distributors bypassed the film, and Gerima chose to distribute the film himself. In the Fall of 2021, director Ava DuVernay’s distribution company, Array, restored and brought the movie to Netflix for re-release.

The film tells the story of an African American model, Mona, who goes to Ghana on a photo shoot where she is suddenly transported back in time to the days of slavery. There, she tells the story from the point of view of Shola, a slave who lives on a plantation with several others. Gerima spent nearly two decades researching the trans-Atlantic slave trade before creating the film. Despite its limited initial release, “Sankofa” has remained an important piece of work in both filmmaking and African studies. With its availability on Netflix, the film has continued to receive praise and renewed interest from its captivating and rich storytelling.

This story appears in the Winter 2022 issue.

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