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Ava DuVernay’s Array Releasing has launched the trailer for its 4K restoration of Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima’s landmark 1993 film Sankofa, which is set to release on Netflix across various territories on Sept. 24.
The feature — described by DuVernay as a “boundary-pushing and transformative film about the untold history of Black resistance” — was developed from 20 years of research into the transatlantic trade of enslaved African people. It follows Mona (Oyafunmike Ogunlano), a Black American fashion model who undergoes a journey back in time to a plantation in North America. It originally bowed at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival in 1993, where it competed for the Golden Bear, and later won the grand prize at the African Cinema Festival in Italy and the best cinematography award at the FESPACO Pan-African Film Festival in Burkina Faso.
“My hope is that new audiences will appreciate and embrace the brilliance of Sankofa and the absolute excellence of Mr. Gerima as a filmmaker and thinker,” DuVernay told The Hollywood Reporter about the new release. “For decades, Mr. Gerima and his work have been overlooked and underappreciated. More people must know his name as he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the masters of cinema that have been touted and supported by the Hollywood establishment.”
DuVernay added: “Everyone at Array Releasing is honored to work with Mr. & Mrs. Gerima to finally make this masterpiece available to a global audience. Sankofa should be on every cinephile’s must-watch list as an important piece of cinema history.”
Initially overlooked by distributors, Sankofa was self-distributed in the U.S. by Haile and his wife Shirikiana Gerima’s independent distribution company through grassroots marketing within African American communities. Their outreach led to over two years of sold-out screenings in theaters across the country.
Sankofa will have its L.A. re-release debut at DuVernay’s Array Creative Campus on Sept. 24, followed by a screening of Gerima’s 1982 feature Ashes and Embers (which Array re-released in 2016), with the film landing on Netflix the same day in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Array and the The Sakofa Film Academy will also host a five-day masterclass, to be taught by Gerima who was born and raised in Ethiopia before moving to the U.S. in 1967.
“Haile Gerima is one of my cinema heroes,” added DuVernay. “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.”
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