Sankofa combines film, books and food
At any given time, the producer of the film Sankofa is deep in discussion with fellow filmmakers projecting the African experience -- a Beverly Hills on Georgia Avenue. The menu reflects that presence with the dishes bearing the names of black film directors and producers.
When Gerima bypassed Hollywood to make his powerful film, he also distributed the movie in churches, universities and other venues designed to create discussion about the lessons of African-American history. The signature restaurant is crafted to keep that dialogue ongoing.
The 1993 film is regarded by many observers as the finest film ever created about African-American history. In contrast to current films Lincoln and Django, it tells the story of slavery through the lens of those who experienced it.
The title refers to a West African term to discover the future by looking at the past. In the movie, a successful model unaware of the Middle Passage does a film shoot outside a Ghanian slaver castle. She is mystically transported back into history and lives the experience of being kidnaped and enslaved. In the dream sequence, she meets examples of the resistance movement which ultimately overcame the cruel institution When she returns to the present, she has a completely different sense of identity.
Although Gerima received a film doctorate from industry springboard UCLA in the 1970s, he found resistance telling the story until developing his own financing through a combination of public television and foreign networks.
Given that experience, the bookstore and restaurant serves as an incubator for a new generation of filmmakers, including his students at the Howard University School of Communications.
For those who find the extremes of Lincoln or Django unsuitable as the cinematic vision, Sankofa presents an authentic view of the courageous and thoughtful response to cruelty. During the year of jubilee, remember the words of Russwurm and Cornish -- "we wish to plead our own cause"--and order Sankofa as your black history present to yourself. Better yet, pick up one at Sankofa while visiting the nation's capitol.
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