Black American model Mona, averse from America’s history of slavery, is taking part in a photo shoot at a Ghanaian slave fort. A mystical drummer, calling on the spirits of enslaved ancestors to return home, puts her into a trance. She is transformed into Shola, a slave woman on a plantation in the South of the United States. There, she too undergoes the horrors and the many moral and psychological traumas those men, women and children had to endure. As the meaning of the word sankofa suggests, symbolised by a bird looking backward, she returns to the present wiser, thanks to her knowledge of the past.
With this trailblazing film, Gerima did away with the nostalgic romanticising of slavery as presented in American cultural expressions, particularly cinema. Sankofa is an influential work in African Diaspora cinema and also consolidated Gerima’s principled position as an independent filmmaker.

Filmmaker
Haile Gerima
Country
USA, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Germany
Year
1993
Medium
35mm
Length
125’
Language
English
Producer
Haile Gerima
Sales
UCLA Film and Television Archive
Writer
Haile Gerima
Cinematography
Augustin Cubano
Editor
Haile Gerima
Production Design
Kerry Marshall
Sound Design
Don White
Music
David J. White
Cast
Kofi Ghanaba, Oyafunmike Ogunlano, Alexandra Duah, Nick Medley, Mutabaruka, Afemo Omilami, Reggie Carter