"Sankofa director back with film of Ethiopian battle." Canadian Press. November 24, 1999.
This article was printed after the completion of Gerima's recent film Adwa. The article begins however, with a brief discussion of Sankofa. It explains the difficulty Gerima had finding locations to show Sankofa because "Hollywood...said it did not know how to market it." The article also explains that Adwa is a story of an African triumph whereas Sankofa depicts the horrors of many African lives.
Martin, Michael, ed. Cinemas of the Black Diaspora. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995.
As pertaining to Haile Gerima's Sankofa:
Sankofa is considered a historic epic. It was created during a time when many African filmmaking projects were delayed and otherwise frustrated and influenced by such factors as changes in their African beneficiaries and cumbersome administration processes (194). It has been considered by some to be an example of a new cinematic tradition. Sankofa displays the "...characteristic emphasis on film as cultural and political practice" (205). Gerima says "'The oral tradition is a part of African film aesthetics in terms of space, pace and rhythms'" (120). One instance of this is Gerima's use of Sankofa who demonstrates the prominent oral tradition of Africa. Another example is the use of the sound of the whip during the transition from Ghana to Louisiana and the drums in the background music. Although Sankofa is viewed by some as an example of new cinematic practices, it can be misinterpreted as:...an alienating convention" (205). This can cause the purpose of the film to seem compromised.
Amistad. videocassette. 1998.
|Both Amistad and Sankofa depict the cruelty and injustices of slavery. Both demonstrate the horrific conditions of the Middle passage. Amistad shows how slaves were stripped of all their clothes, squeezed into a small storage area that was damp and dreary, and constantly whipped and beaten for no reason at all. These depictions are important because descriptions of the Middle Passage are usually avoided since the conditions were so inhumane|
| and humiliating to the
slaves; scholar do not like to believe that whites could have been so cruel to
slaves. While Amistad only
shows the abuses that occur on the ship, Sankofa goes further to also
demonstrate the abuses that occur on the plantation as well.
Also Sankofa’s theme centers around the importance of going back
to the past in order to understand the present.
Amistad does not focus on this concept but at the end, when John
Quincy Adams is giving a speech to the Supreme Court, he says, “Who we are is
who we were.” He then alludes to
the fact that the Mande look to their ancestors to solve the problems they are
dealing with in their present situation; he urges the supreme court to do the
same. One point that Amistad
and Sankofa differ on is their depiction of the role of Christianity in
slavery. While Sankofa
portrays Christianity as an instrument of white oppression used to manipulate
and control slaves, Amistad shows a slave being inspired by Christianity.
Roots. television miniseries.
This is an interesting comparison piece because Gerima is not very enamored of many works in his field, in particular this one. He says "'I felt it didn't embody the struggle and the resistance spirit of black people in the sense of fighting back. It only showed their tolerance - their capacity as victims to tolerate what was perpetrated on them. The spirit of resistance was very much absent'" (Ritchards).
Muhammad, Lyle. "SANKOFA FIRE! Arson fire destroys over 10,000 copies of landmark film." http://afgen.com/sankofa.html.
Although this article begins with an account of a fire in the Sankofa
video supply room, it continues into an analysis of the film. It contains
a detailed statement from Gerima about his film. He felt that this film
was necessary to help the many African Americans who have ignored their past to
come to grips with it. Also, the frequent pictures of the bird,
particularly the buzzard, serve as more than just a reminder of the title and
its translation. The bird represents both life and death. It
represents aide to runaway slaves and also a means of returning to Africa after
"Sankofa addresses the continuing problem of those persons in the African Diaspora who neglect their own history. In dealing with this problem, we must ask ourselves two questions. How do we as Africans jar our 'collective memory?' And, is it possible to learn from our collective experiences and move forward as a people? It is my hope that this film will stimulate the necessary thought processes needed to engage in meaningful discussion and debate about the present-day 'slavery' in which we as Africans find ourselves."
Ritchards, Kenneth. "Sankofa." http://www.kwaku.org/sf/faq033.htm. 1999.
This is a very insightful article that includes background information on Gerima. It starts with his learning about the Maafa. This learning did not take place until his first trip to America, the topic of African slavery had never been taught during his educational experiences in Africa. The article details some of his influences and some of his reactions to other works on similar topics. It explains how he came about creating his film as well as the hardships he encountered along the way. It also gives an analysis of the film.
Slemmer, Mike. "Why do African Americans visit the slave castles of the West African Coast." http://www.stanford.edu/~kennell/sample.html. 1996.
This article lists many of the major slave holding locations of western Africa. It informs us that Gerima's Ghana filming sight was indeed once used as a slave holding location. The article also explains the role that these sites held in the enslavement of most Africans in the Americas. It concludes with a look at the newfound interest in these sites among many people of the African Diaspora.
copyright (c) 2001 by Mary R. Costantino Undergraduate at The College of New Jersey