Wednesday, 10 March 2010


In something of an unconventional story arc, an American supermodel named Mona travels to Ghana for a photo shoot, only to be transported back in time to the slave-trade era by a local mystic. In her new incarnation as house servant Shola, Mona encounters a world of injustice and suffering in complete contrast to her cosmopolitan lifestyle. Through contact with two other slaves, she begins to see life from the other end of the hierarchy, and shares their righteous indignation as they fight the system. Shango, whom Mona falls in love with, is not afraid to use physical intimidation, while Nunu’s battle is far more personal, her mixed-race son an icon of enforced assimilationism.

The film’s title Sankofa (also the name of the mystic) is a succinct Akan word meaning “to revisit to the past, remember it, and use it to understand the future”, and aptly summarises the film’s intent. Despite the farcical nature of the story (time travel and real world history nary a serious film make), Haile Gerima treats the subject of slavery with the utmost care, pairing the frightening image of Mona stripped almost to the bone with a raw soul soundtrack. His somewhat commercial treatment of the film is a reminder that not nearly enough films have been made about the Maafa, or the African Holocaust. But as emotionally affecting as it can be, Sankofa seems to be missing something, particularly in making the link between Mona and her need to discover the history of slavery.

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