Sankofa Trailer: Ava Duvernay Spearheads A 4K Restoration Of A Lost Classic For Netflix

Ava DuVernay ("Selma," "A Wrinkle in Time") and her ARRAY Releasing company are putting out a brand-new 4K restoration of legendary Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima's "Sankofa," a groundbreaking 1993 film set around the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the powerful resistance of a group of enslaved Africans in the American South. The re-release is landing on Netflix this coming Friday, September 24, as the streamer has put out all of ARRAY's releases since 2016. If the mise en scène rings familiar to you, it could be because the recent Janelle Monáe horror movie "Antebellum" took a page or 10 from "Sankofa," which along with Octavia Butler's 1979 novel "Kindred" also featured time-hopping protagonists transported to the horrors of plantation life.

Here is the official synopses: 

SANKOFA follows Mona (Oyafunmike Ogunlano), a Black American fashion model on a photo shoot in Cape Coast, Ghana. Through Mr. Gerima's imaginative storytelling, she undergoes a journey back in time to a plantation in North America. There she becomes Shola, an enslaved African woman who labors in the master's house and experiences the horrors of slavery firsthand. In becoming Shola, Mona recovers and confronts her ancestral identity and experience. While enduring monstrous trauma at the hands of white men who owned people for profit, Shola's interactions with her fellow enslaved Africans are rich with humanity, respect and dignity for one another. Most notably, she connects with Shango (Mutabaruka), a rebellious African man who toils in the fields, and Nunu (Alexandra Duah), one of the few of the enslaved to remember her life in Africa before being stolen and terrorized by European traders.

"A Boundary-Pushing and Transformative Film"

DuVernay (who founded ARRAY in 2010 to distribute her first feature "I Will Follow") spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the importance of the film and Gerima to her: 

"Haile Gerima is one of my cinema heroes. His filmmaking and self-distribution legacy have heavily influenced my work in both areas. 'Sankofa' is a boundary-pushing and transformative film about the untold history of Black resistance, a topic that is obviously and unfortunately still very relevant nearly 30 years after its debut."

Born and raised in Ethiopia before arriving in the U.S. in 1967 to study theater, Haile Gerima is often associated with the L.A. Rebellion, a group of noted black filmmakers who came out of UCLA Film School which included Charles Burnett ("Killer of Sheep") and Julie Dash ("Daughters of the Dust"). Much like DuVernay, Haile Gerima and his wife Shirikiana Aina (herself a noted documentary filmmaker) took matters into their own hands when "Sankofa" couldn't find an initial distributor. They utilized grassroots marketing within African-American communities to self-distribute the film, leading to sold-out screenings in the U.S. over a protracted two-year release strategy. It eventually became an official selection of Berlin International Film Festival and AFI Film Festival in 1993.