Haile Gerima’s Sankofa, with Honey Crawford and Merawi Gerima

Haile Gerima’s Sankofa, with Honey Crawford and Merawi Gerima

Haile Gerima, Sankofa (still), 1993. Courtesy of Array.

The African Film Institute

African Film Institute Film Series
Haile Gerima’s Sankofa, with Honey Crawford and Merawi Gerima

Admission starts at $5

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June 27, 2024, 7pm
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172 Classon Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205

The African Film Institute is pleased to invite you to a screening of Sankofa by Ethiopian director Haile Gerima, followed by a conversation between filmmaker Merawi Gerima, scholar Honey Crawford, and anthropologist Natacha Nsabimana, at e-flux Screening Room on Thursday, June 27, at 7pm. The event is organized as part of the film series curated by Nsabimana for the  African Film Institute and e-flux Screening Room.

Taking a cue from the practice of an evening school as proposed by Christian Nyampeta’s Ecole Du SoirNsabimana invites filmmakers, artists, and scholars for a meditation and conversations around “African Cinema,” unfolding at e-flux Screening Room over the course of twelve months. What does the formulation evoke for us today? Is it worth holding onto? For whom? Comprised of a series of viewings sometimes followed by conversations, the curation will include feature films, shorts, and documentaries.

Sankofa takes on a journey from a beach in contemporary Ghana, to Cape Coast Castle, to resistance and rebellion on a plantation in the American South. From Africa to the US and back, Gerima’s magnanimous tale invites us into a world of historical and metaphorical continuities between Africa as geography and Africa as a politic. Sankofa’s beauty is this opening and conversation with endless unfolding connections: Africa as a location, an idea, a metaphor, a diaspora.

Haile Gerima, Sankofa (1993, 125 minutes)
Sankofa follows Mona (Oyafunmike Ogunlano), a Black American fashion model on a photo shoot in Cape Coast, Ghana. Through Gerima’s imaginative storytelling, Mona 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.

For inquiries addressed to the African Film Institute, please write to africanfilminstitute@e-flux.com.

For general and press inquiries, contact program@e-flux.com.

–Two flights of stairs lead up to the building’s front entrance at 172 Classon Avenue. 
–For elevator access, please RSVP to program@e-flux.com. The building has a freight elevator which leads into the e-flux office space. Entrance to the elevator is nearest to 180 Classon Ave (a garage door). We have a ramp for the steps within the space. 
–e-flux has an ADA-compliant bathroom. There are no steps between the Screening Room and this bathroom.

Africa, USA, Slavery, Diaspora, Blackness
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The African Film Institute

Haile Gerima is an independent filmmaker and retired professor of film at Howard University in Washington DC. Born and raised in Ethiopia, Gerima emigrated to the United States in 1967. Following in the footsteps of his father, a dramatist and playwright, Gerima studied acting in Chicago before entering the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, where his exposure to Latin American films inspired him to mine his own cultural legacy. After completing his thesis film, Bush Mama (1975), Gerima received international acclaim with Harvest: 3000 Years (1976), an Ethiopian drama that won the Grand Prize at the Locarno film festival. After the award-winning Ashes & Embers (1982) and the documentaries Wilmington 10—USA 10,000 (1978) and After Winter: Sterling Brown (1985), Gerima filmed his epic Sankofa (1993). This formally ambitious tale of a plantation slave revolt was ignored by US distributors, but Gerima tapped into African American communities, and booked sold-out screenings in independent theatres around the country. In 1996, Gerima founded the Sankofa Video and Bookstore in Washington DC, a cultural and intellectual space that offers opportunities for self-expression, interaction, discussion, and analysis through community events such as film screenings, book signings, scholar forums, and artist showcases. Gerima continues to distribute and promote his own films, including his last film Teza (2008), which won the Jury Prize and Best Screenplay awards at the Venice Film Festival. He also lectures and conducts workshops in alternative screenwriting and directing both within the US and internationally.

Honey Crawford is an Assistant Professor of English and Dramatic Literature at New York University. She studies Afro-Brazilian vernacular performance as both a scholar and a practitioner, and she positions women-driven spectacles of black consciousness in the twentieth to twenty-first century against prevalent discourse on the black diaspora and performance studies. Her research privileges embodied knowledge and oral traditions while investigating attempts to capture or contain these forms in literature and text-centric works. Her current book project gives attention to theatrical traditions that indulge in an aesthetic of excess, identifying a preoccupation with the transgressive potential held in performances of black feminine power. Where studies of cultural performance of the black diaspora most commonly address the contributions of black women in terms of preservation, her manuscript troubles the temporal and socio-spatial containment that preservation implies. She contemplates how certain legacies refuse containment and in fact promise to exceed outwardly measured constraints through the notion of overwhelming. Honey earned her MFA in Critical Studies at California Institute of the Arts and her PhD in Theatre Studies at Cornell University.

Merawi Gerima is an organizer with the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, fighting police terror and with people power. He also makes films to help build that people power. His 2020 film Residue was about Black resistance to gentrification in his hometown, Washington DC. He is currently filming a documentary about the struggle for Community Control of the Police in Chicago and writing a film about the Alabama Chapter of the Communist Party, which was made up of and led by Black sharecroppers, factory workers, housewives, and unemployed people in the middle of the Great Depression, and which ultimately gave birth to the Civil Rights Movement.

Natacha Nsabimana teaches in the anthropology department at the university of Chicago. Her research and teaching interests include postcolonial critique, musical movements, and the cultural and political worlds of African peoples on the continent and in the diaspora.

The African Film Institute aims to create a home and a place of intimacy with African cinema in New York, through developing gradually and organically a viewing program animated by fellowships; a growing library; an active writers’ room; and an expanding catalog of recorded dialogs. The African Film Institute draws from the visual cultures that view cinema as an evening school: a popular information system in the service of education, aesthetic experience, and public dissemination—employing a methodology concerning the use of cinema’s collective production, and investing in viewing methods informed by different uses of time, visual and textual histories, and social struggles and hopes in mutuality between their own locality and the world at large. The African Film Institute is convened by Christian Nyampeta and hosted by e-flux Screening Room.

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