Note: approximate times are given from the beginning of the film not the beginning of the video tape.
0:00:00 Opening Credits
Pictures of African sculptures, including the Sankofa bird, are shown with African chanting and drums playing. At 0:01:23 the narrator (Sankofa's interpreter) begins speaking. Sankofa is calling out to the Spirits of the Dead - the stolen Africans. He speaks of their suffering and mistreatment and urges them to "rise up and possess your vessel...your bird of passage."
Sankofa is seen drumming and chanting. He has a white powder on his body and is wearing a white robe fastened slightly above the waist. This shot is intermingled with shots of the castle and its cannons, a buzzard, and local villagers fishing. Sankofa calls to the Africans and speaks of the divine drummer in a call and response type chant. As the scene progresses (0:05:36) we see Mona walking in the ocean. She is dressed in a bathing suit, sun glasses and hat with long orange and Tina Turner hair jewelry and make-up.
Mona models for the photographer. When she notices Sankofa approaching (0:07:27) she screams and runs behind the photographer. Sankofa tells her she must go back to her past.
New Photo Shoot
We hear Mona and the photographer moaning, we soon discover that it is another photo shoot. Mona has switched outfits and is now being photographed inside the castle. (0:08:21) A tour guide begins explaining the history of the castle in the background. The guide points out other slave castles in the area as well. We see Sankofa who is now wearing a yellow hat. We also see another shot of the buzzard.
Another Confrontation Between Sankofa and Mona
Sankofa appears and approaches Mona shouting at her to return to her past. He then turns on the tour group and tells them that they must leave this sacred ground. He tells them that "Blood has spilt here before," and that the whites have disgraced the Africans and sold them to other countries. (0:10:31) A guard then comes and tells Sankofa to leave; he does so partially of his own volition and partially through the guard's force. (0:10:57) The tour guide then explains that that was Sankofa, "a self-appointed guardian of the castle." He communicates with the Spirits of the Dead through his drums. He does this every sunrise and sunset facing east in the morning and west in the evening. Sankofa returns later during the tour but the guards drag him out of the castle (0:11:41).
Mona, who has changed yet again, watches the guards drag Sankofa out and hesitates but then begins to follow the tour group down into the dungeons of the castle. We hear the tour guide explaining that the slaves were held her until there were enough. He also tells us how they left the castle and how long they stayed here. She follows quietly, some distance behind the group.
The door to the dungeon crashes shut and Mona appears shaken by the event. When she turns around the corner she discovers that their are now slaves in the dungeon (including a close up of an individual who will later be introduced to us as Nunu). She screams and tries to run away from the slaves and they begin to follow her. She screams in panic and searches for a way to get away.
0:16:51 Mona Is 'Captured' and
After banging on the dungeon door, it finally opens. Mona tries to leave but is dragged back and branded (0:18:03) despite her protests.
The scene switches to outside the castle. It then changes from plantation fields to slaves passing by repeatedly intermingled with shots of the buzzard. In the background is the constant cracking of a whip, a singer and sax player and the sounds of a crop being chopped down.
Introduction to Shola and the Lafayette Plantation
We are now on the Lafayette plantation with a house slave named Shola. As we see the plantation and its workers, she gives some background information about the plantation and the slaves there. She, Joe, and Lucy are all house slaves who were born on the plantation. They are obedient slaves, but some slaves were different for instance Nunu and Shango.
0:22:10 An Introduction to Shango
Shola tells us about Shango, a field plantation slave wearing white with a read head band. He is from the West Indies and was sold to the Lafayettes because he was a troublemaker. Shola is in love with him. She brings him extra food. He eats very quickly despite Shola's comment to slow down. She says no one knows she is out here with him. They discuss his continued desire for Shola to poison the plantation owners (0:23:20). She explains that even though the whites abuse her, she still believes killing them is wrong and evil. Shango says that it wouldn't be killing, just putting it in the food. Shola replies "Not killin' Shango, seems to me you want me to not kill everybody." Shango says that sacrifices are necessary. She mentions that she would have been poisoning him as well. He becomes angry at that fact and spits out the food.
Introduction to Nunu
"And there lives as a memory of part of my past" Nunu. Nunu is described as having her spirit still in Africa. She is an Akan (people whose language the word Sankofa comes from). Shola overhears a story about how Nunu once killed an overseer through her eyes and a chant (0:25:15). Both the story teller and Nunu are dressed in all white but the story teller has a red head band on as well. During the story, Shola has two flashbacks of being raped by the master. After the story, Shola expresses the desire to have some of Nunu's powers, especially for when the master 'treats her bad.' She thinks to herself that she would gladly have Nunu for a mother especially since Joe doesn't want her.
Introduction to Joe
Shola describes Joe. He is a trusted head slave and Nunu's son. Shola and Joe were baptized together. Nunu was so young when she had Joe that it seemed as if the two were growing up together. When Joe became a head slave though, the two stopped getting along.
Return of the Captured Slaves.
A group of slaves are being brought back after an attempt to run away. One of them, Kuta is pregnant and had run away for the freedom of her baby. Shola mentions that she had asked Shango about running away but he had said he couldn't.
Ali and Joe Prepare the Whipping Posts.
Joe and Noble Ali are seen putting posts up with the captured slaves and one of the slave masters in the background. Lucy approaches the two and Noble Ali teases Joe about her because of her crush on him.
click here to hear Noble Ali teasing Joe
Plans to Rescue Kuta.
Shango approaches another slave, Nathan, about helping Kuta and the other captured slaves. However, Nathan says that he's already gotten into enough trouble.
Who Will Whip the Captured Slaves?
Master James confronts Joe and Noble Ali about who will whip the captured slaves. First Master James tells Joe to whip them, but Joe says that he can't 'whoop' and count at the same time. So Master James calls Noble Ali who says that he's too tired to do a good enough job. Master James tells him that he's "gonna be whippin'" until he dies or he'll be whipped.
The Whipping of Kuta
Kuta's whipping starts. Nunu is seen watching and protesting. Shola tries to stop Shango from intervening.
Noble Ali Collapses During the Whipping.
As Noble Ali is whipping Kuta he clasps his head and collapses. Master James takes over the whipping of Kuta. Nunu attempts to rush out towards the posts but Joe stops her. As she walks away she screams at him.
Shango's Attack on Master James
Shango runs up to attack Master James, he's shot and beat with the butt of the gun. Several slaves hold Shola back. Shango is dragged off.
The Baby is 'Born.'
Nunu and another slave run up to Kuta who is dead. They take down the body and additional slaves run up and surround Nunu and the body. Nunu gives the body a caesarian-section and (0:43:26) a baby boy, Kwame, is born.
The baby's crying causes a flashback to Mona being branded.
Nunu Tells the Story of the Porcupine Girl.
Shola talks about how at night Nunu tells stories about her homeland and sometimes she goes out to the field slaves quarters and listens to these tales. Then she listens to Nunu tell the story of the porcupine girl. Nunu tells us that there was a village with a beautiful young girl in it. The girl was named Afria. Now in this village everyone was a porcupine. Afria’s parents were both powerful; her mother was a medicine woman. Afria means special.
0:46:45 Joe Walks and Thinks in the Plantation Church.
It is night and Joe is seen walking through the church. He does the sign of the cross and then walks towards the camera. We hear dogs barking in the background. He looks up and sees Father Rafael watching him. The camera rotates and we soon see that Joe has been staring at a picture of the Madonna and Child. In the background Nunu is singing a lullaby, slowly growing louder.
Nunu Sings to Kwame.
Nunu continues to sing the lullaby. She is singing to Kwame in her home. Noble Ali enters and asks how the baby is. Nunu says that he is doing well but making the other babies jealous since he too is drinking their mothers' milk. Noble Ali then tells Nunu about his feelings of guilt over Kuta's death and his actions.
click here to hear Noble Ali talk about his guilt
Return to the Plantation Church
Father Rafael leads Joe through the church. They stop to discuss the Crucifix. Father Rafael tells Joe that Jesus died for both the father and Joe.
Nunu and Noble Ali Discuss His Position.
The scene has shifted back to Nunu's home. She is discussing how Noble Ali knew the consequences of becoming a head slave and what it entailed as far as his interactions with the other slaves. She also tells him that he could do something about his situation if he really wanted to and leaves him with a choice of what to do.
click here to hear Nunu's and Noble Ali's reactions to his feelings
Visits Shango, Who is in the 'Leg Irons.'
Shola is seen walking through the fields. We soon discover that her destination is the place where the slaves who are spending the night in the 'leg irons' are located. She has gone to talk to Shango and has brought him food. (0:54:06) Shola reprimands Shango. She tells him that it’s not that difficult to ignore the injustices and to ‘act right.’ He worries her because of his actions. Her lecture continues with a tone of guilt. "Why you do this to me. It ain’t none of your business…You just one man…You ever think about me." Shango responds. After he is done talking Shola tells him that he is speaking nonsense.
click here to hear Shango’s response
0:56:13 Nunu and Noble Ali Again
Nunu fastens Kwame to Noble Ali’s back. Noble Ali objects because he is a man, but Nunu replies that this will make him a tender man. Nunu says that this baby is special because everybody knows why he’s here and everyone will help to take care of him. He was not born the natural way and when he grows up he will tell more about this plantation than any of the adults. When Nunu is done speaking about the baby, Noble Ali expresses a desire to sleep with Nunu. Nunu says no, and explains that she was sold into slavery by an African villager acting as a ‘headman.’ Thus Noble Ali might as well give up because Nunu will not sleep with him so long as he is a headman.
0:57:38 Introduction to the Secret Society
Shola explains that rebellions always happen when the white men least expect them. She explains that there is a secret society which some of the slaves from her plantation are a part of. This society also involves slaves from other plantations as well as slaves who have escaped to freedom in the hills. She explains that the house servants are not trusted to be part of this society. She says that you can feel the tension in the big house.
0:58:29 The Master Rapes Shola.
The Master drags Shola down the steps out of the house. As the rape takes place we see Shango in the stocks reacting to it.
1:00:07 A Secret Society Meeting
We see the slaves entering into their secret meeting. This meeting is run by Nunu. It begins with a representative of the free blacks from the hills giving a report. He tells us how many births have occurred in the hills and how many weapons they have. He explains that the plan is to rescue the enslaved Africans one by one. He says that in the hills they serve their own God, but in the plantation, they serve the white man’s God.
click here to hear part of the representative's report
1:02:51 The Rebellion
The secret meeting has ended. As they leave the cave there is chanting. Nunu shouts that the snake shall eat the contents of the belly of the frog. Shola says that soldiers were called in to stop the rebellion. Then the field hands were all gathered in order to ascertain who had started the rebellion. Since no one would acknowledge how the rebellion was started, a random handful of slaves were selected to be put to death. They were placed in tiny cages that were hung from trees until they died from starvation and the elements and scavenger birds picked at their bodies. Since Shango was still in leg irons during the time of the rebellion he was safe from punishment. However,...
1:04:25 Nunu is Sold.
As Joe watches from the trees, Nunu is taken out of her house. Noble Ali is outraged and tries to stop Nunu from being taken. Nunu tells Noble Ali to stop so that he is not killed. She insists that she’s coming back. She tells Noble Ali that he should be wise and he knows what to do. Master James comes and Noble Ali tells him that everything is all right.
1:06:25 Noble Ali’s Transformation
The selling of Nunu is the turning point for Noble Ali in the movie. Noble Ali becomes ‘ripe.’ From then on he pretends to be the same person in front of the white men but he becomes a part of the secret society. He is no longer hated by the other slaves but becomes part of their group.
1:06:41 Shola Sees Nunu Being Taken Away.
The scene shifts from Noble Ali to Shola, who we see running out of the house towards the departing slave sellers. She runs to follow the slave traders and tries to grab Nunu but is pushed away by the trader’s black helpers. Joe watches from the shade but does not interfere. As the traders get further away, Shola screams for Joe and calls him a coward. Joe cringes and covers his ears but does not attempt to help his mother. The scene ends with Shola sitting down and sobbing hysterically over the plantation’s loss of Nunu.
1:08:50 Preparation for the Next Secret
There is a shot panning across on the plantation, which then focuses in on some of the workers. Noble Ali is overseeing the area. Shango is going from slave to slave whispering "Tonight in the cave." Noble Ali sees what Shango is doing, nods at him and proceeds as if nothing has happened.
1:10:03 Father Rafael Discusses the Virgin Mary
With Lucy eavesdropping outside of the church, Father Rafael tells Joe the story of Holy Mary. As the story progresses, the father’s voice quickly fades as a background song grows louder.
1:10:57 Nunu Returns to the Plantation.
We discover that Nunu could not be sold. "Finally I’m too old for the white man," she tells the ecstatic Noble Ali. Nunu recounts her experience at the auction block. Both Noble Ali and Nunu express how happy they are that she is back. Nunu tells Noble Ali, that she had told him she would be but that she also knew that he hadn’t believed her.
1:11:55 Shola’s Guilt and Her Feelings
Shola tells us that Father Rafael has told her that her punishments (in particular being raped by Master James) are because she doesn’t pray. Shola is confused by this fact because to her it seems that the more she prayed the "meaner the master got" and the more he raped her. So she decides to give up on praying all together.
click here to hear Shola’s decision to quit praying
1:12:29 Joe Attends Confession.
Joe attends confession in order to talk to Father Rafael about Nunu. When he says her name, Father Rafael tells him not to say ‘that heathen name’ in church. Joe expresses his fear that Nunu will poison him as legend says she has done to other headmen and overseers. Father Rafael says he must fight back and Joe says that he has. Father Rafael tells him that Nunu is the devil. And Joe tells him that all the slaves know that he is different than the rest of them, implying that he does not fit into their society. During this scene we also see flashes of Lucy and Joe together near his cabin (1:14:22).
1:14:43 Joe’s Cabin
Joe brings Lucy into his room and closes the door behind them. We then go back to the church.
1:15:10 Whose Son Am I?
Joe asks Father Rafael "Whose son am I?" Father Rafael pauses and hesitatingly responds "We are all his sons." (1:15:39) We then switch back to the cabin where Joe is on top of Lucy. As Joe leans back, Lucy touches his necklace of the Virgin Mary.
1:16:24 Joe Throws Lucy Out.
Lucy says that she has been a fool to want Joe. She says that he’s nothing. She also implies that he would not be willing to take any woman and maybe he’s holding out for the Virgin Mother herself. During this tirade, Shola comes and tries to pull Lucy away telling her to leave him be. As Shola deals with Lucy we see Joe looking tormented in his cabin with Shola’s voice coming loudly from outside. (1:17:33) As Shola’s voice fades, Joe prays for forgiveness.
1:17:50 Lucy’s Desperation
Lucy, Shola, Shango are sitting under some trees. Children can be heard playing somewhere nearby. After some coaxing from Shola, Lucy tells Shango her dilemma. She says that she will do anything to procure Joe’s love. She says she can’t sleep or eat. Shango makes a derogatory comment about headmen in general, but also gives Lucy an herb. He gives her very specific instructions about the use of this herb. She must give him only a little bit of it with food, and not at night. He finishes by saying that he doesn’t know why Lucy loves Joe.
1:20:08 Nunu’s Rape is Discovered by
The camera drifts to Nunu and Shola sitting under a tree. Nunu is braiding Shola’s hair and continuing the story of Afria. Afria has been captured and is on a boat where the men and women have been separated. After a while she is no longer to tell whether she is on land or at sea. "That’s how her rotten fruit was conceived," states Nunu. Nunu begins to cry and holds Shola. Shola realizes what has happened and Nunu explains that’s why she’s so distant to Joe.
1:21:24 Afria is Nunu.
As we look at Joe, Shola reiterates that Afria is Nunu. Nunu was raped by a white man and that is how Joe was conceived.
1: 22:45 Another Secret Meeting
Nunu is performing some sort of ceremony involving placing wet grass on both sides of the shoulders of a group of people. Everyone is wearing all white. We are soon told that this was an initiation ceremony for the secret society. Shola is there but for some reason she couldn’t bring herself to be initiated. She says maybe this is because of the years of Catholicism. She was happy for the time being just to have made it as far as the cave.
1:23:08 Shola’s Attempted Escape
Shola tells us that that night she attempted to run away. She hadn’t even bothered to put clothes on, she just ran. She was captured however and dragged back to her bedroom. The Master and Mistress both say that she ran because she was possessed. We see Master James, Father Rafael, Joe and Shola all in her bedroom. Shola is still naked and her hands have been tied to a rope handing from the ceiling. Master James tells the father to look at Shola’s hair. The braids are considered to be heathen so the father cuts them off of Shola’s head. They then sprinkle her with holy water and hoist her hands higher so that she is almost standing. As she is whipped, the scene of the bedroom is interrupted with shots of the moon. We also see Shango sneaking towards Shola’s room. Shola is forced to repent (1:24:50) and she does. As she goes into hysterics, the three men leave her still attached to the ceiling (1:26:02).
click here for a more detailed analysis of this scene
1:26:59 The Sankofa Bird
Shola is now lying face down on her bed and Shango is cleansing her wounds. She mutters that she can’t stop her legs and Shango responds that she shouldn’t. "Keep on goin’," he tells her. Shango tells Shola about how his sister died when they were very young; his father had died a long time ago too. Both of these deaths caused confusion for Shango because all he could see was their bodies. Shango then tells of a friend Jake whom Shola would have liked as well. The two had plotted to run away together and then one morning when Shango woke up, Jake was hanging from a tree outside his sleeping area. Shola then tells us that Shango trusted her for the first time that night and gave her a bird, a Sankofa bird. She says that this bird changed her; it turned her into a rebel. She was scared of nothing, not even death, and when they demoted her to field hand, she was happy.
click here for a more detailed analysis of this scene
click here to hear Shola's reaction to Shango's gift
1:30:14 Lucy Gives Joe the Herb.
Lucy brings Joe some food while he reads under a tree near where the field hands are working. They make eye contact as she places the food down and then she leaves. As he begins to eat we see shots of the field workers as well. Joe begins to eat the food more quickly and then starts to feel the effects of the herb (1:32:20). It looks almost as though he’s choking as he spits and clutches his throat. He stumbles towards the workers and grabs one. Other head slaves pull him away and start to attack him. Nunu, however, realizes that something is wrong with her son. She urges the other slaves to leave him alone. She then grabs Lucy and Lucy’s look confirms her suspicions that there was something in the food. (1:34:07) Joe runs off towards the river followed by Nunu.
1:34:45 Joe and Nunu's Confrontation at the River
Once at the river Joe jumps in and continues spitting as he sits in the middle of the water. Nunu runs to the edge of the stream and says that Joe should just go ahead and die. As she turns away though, she is struck by a ‘pain.’ It is the pain of childbirth. She ends up jumping into the water and holding him saying "Tomey don’t die on me." She calls on her ancestors to not let him die. When Nunu sees Joe’s necklace though, she rips it off of him and throws it into the water (1:37:04). This action causes Joe to think of Father Rafael who we now see and hear his testimony that Nunu is the devil. Joe tells Nunu to stay away, calls her the devil, and accuses her of trying to murder him as she as done to other head workers. Nunu is very upset that her son has accused her of being a ‘witch’ and reminds him that she carried him for nine months. As the seen progresses we see someone running towards the river. Joe, however, kills his mother.
1:39:00 Shola Arrives at the River.
Shola arrives at the river and Joe cries out to her saying that he needs her help. "What’d you finally do?" she asks him, calling him a miserable man. Joe claims that it was an accident. Shola turns unsympathetic though and as she does so, we begin to hear thunder in the distance. She asks Joe where his loving father is now. And tells Joe that Nunu was raped by a white man at the age of 14. Joe is in denial and says that Nunu couldn’t possibly be the porcupine girl. Shola confirms his suspicions and says that yes, Afria is Nunu. She then tells Joe that he has not future and runs off.
1:40:55 Joe Brings Nunu’s Body to the Church.
As Joe enters the church, we see shots of several different pictures of the Madonna and child including a stained glass window. Joe carries his mother’s body to the front of the church and places it on the front altar. (1:41:51) Father Rafael orders Joe to take ‘that heathen’ out of the church. Or else Joe will be no different than the rest of the slaves. Joe replies that this is his mother and Father Rafael had better stop disrespecting her. He then begins his ain’t she a saint monologue. (1:44:05) After Joe speaks Father Rafael becomes justifiably scared. Finally, Joe kills him.
click here to hear Father Rafael's reaction to Nunu's corpse
click here to hear Joe's monologue
1:44:50 Transition Scene
We see the sunset and close ups of Nunu’s face and upper torso.
1:45:32 The Church is Burnt Down.
Shola tells us that the whites tried to get Joe out of the chapel for several days. Joe, however, had barricaded himself in. The whites were forced to resort to drastic measures. They burn the chapel down with Joe inside it. Shola tells us that although Joe’s and Father Rafael’s bodies were found later on, Nunu’s bones were never located. Some say she never died. Some believe that they saw a buzzard take Nunu’s spirit back to Africa. As we are told this information we see the slave castle and more shots of Nunu.
click here to hear Shola talk about the burning of the church
1:46:03 Shola is Initiated Into the Secret
Shola is initiated into the secret society by Shango. She is initiated in the river where Nunu was killed. The two are dressed in all white.
1:47:42 The Final Rebellion Begins.
The field hands are at work and for a few moments everything may be running normally. Noble Ali soon comes up to Shango though and tells him that the master is alone on the hill. (1:49:28) A female slave wearing a white outfit with a read head band and holding a gun approaches the master who is sleeping in a hammock. He tries to get up and back away but trips. The scene shifts to Shola, who is not wearing all white, working in the fields with a machete. She looks at her weapon but continues working. We see Master James approaching on a horse (1:50:20). The scene shifts back to the hill where the rebellion is now in full swing (1:51:04). We then see Sankofa again (1:50:42)
1:51:24 Shola Kills the Master.
As Master James nears, he motions for a nearby black to go away. She has a flashback of being raped and again looks at her knife. The scene shifts back to the hill where the master is now surrounded (1:51:44). There is also a shot of the slave castle in its present day conditions. The action then shifts back to Shola and Master James (1:52:24). Master James gets off his horse and approaches Shola. (1:53:20) She stabs him several times with the machete and then begins to run. We can see people running towards her and the slain master.
1:53:35 Shola’s Final Monologue
Shola says that she can hear the guns but a voice in her had tells her to keep on running. There are horses on her heels and another one falls. Finally Shola feels as though she’s being lifted up and the Earth becomes smaller. We see Sankofa again (1:54:31). Shola tells us that this is exactly as Shango said it would be.
click here to hear Shola's monologue
1:55:25 Return to the Present
Mona emerges from the slave castle, through the same door that she had tried to escape through in the beginning. This time, however, Mona is naked and the doors are wide open and it is midday. Mona screams for help and a woman dressed in white comes to her. "My child welcome back, embrace me," the woman says. She tells Mona that it’s all right and she doesn’t need to cry. (1:56:33) We then see a close up of the Sankofa bird on top of Sankofa’s staff.
1:56:50 Mona Ignores the Photographer.
The photographer calls out to Mona asking where she was and telling her to hurry up. Mona walks right past him without acknowledging his presence.
1:57:28 Mona Joins the Others.
Mona sits among a group of Africans sitting next to Sankofa and his drums. There is a shot of a buzzard. The camera then shows us close ups of the faces who are all staring out towards the sea. We notice that one of the other members of the group is Nunu. She and Mona look towards each other and there are tears of happiness in Nunu’s eyes.
2:00:31 Spirit of the Dead Reprisal
We hear the voice from the opening credits reiterating parts of his speech.
2:01:18 Ending Credits
copyright (c) 2001 by Mary R. Costantino Undergraduate at The College of New Jersey