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Sankofa  /  The Diary of an African Nun

Sankofa (1993)
November 19, 2011 - 7:30 pm
Julie Dash.

Directed by Haile Gerima

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

Producer/Screenwriter/Editor: H. Gerima. Cinematographer: Augustin Cubano. Cast: Kofi Ghanaba, Oyafunmike Ogunlano, Alexandra Duah, Nick Medley, Mutabaruka.

35mm, color, 124 min.

Funded in part with a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

The Diary of an African Nun (1977)

The Diary of an African Nun (1977)

Restoration premiere!

Directed by Julie Dash

A nun in Uganda weighs the emptiness she finds in her supposed union with Christ.  Adapted from a short story by Alice Walker, the film was a deliberate first move by its director toward narrative filmmaking, though its graphic simplicity and pantomimed performance by Barbara O. Jones give it an intensity that anticipates Julie Dash’s work on Daughters of the Dust. —Shannon Kelley

Producer: Julie Dash. Screenwriter: Alice Walker. Cinematographer: Orin Mitchell. Editor: Julie Dash. Cast: Barbara O. Jones, Barbara Young, Makimi Price, Ron Flagge, Renee Carraway.

16mm, b/w, 15 min.

Restored from the original 16mm b/w negative A/B rolls (blown up from Super 8 reversal camera original) and the original 16mm optical soundtrack by UCLA Film & Television Archive. Laboratory services by Fotokem, Audio Mechanics and NT Picture and Sound.