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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

A film of devastating power , and aching beauty

10/10
Author: grendel-37
19 June 2005

I went into this movie, half doubting I'd like it.

My doubts were unfounded, this is not a "Slavery" movie in the Hollywood sense. It is a moving allegory about people, who found themselves... enslaved.

And it is so much more than that. It is a movie about brainwashing, about religious dogma, about the use of religion to maintain an otherwise unsupportable system. About group dynamics, and about music, and about culture, and surprisingly, for a movie of such virulent subject matter... it is about beauty.

It is one of the most lushly, and beautifully filmed movies you'll ever see. It is filled with iconic, magical images. Because it is about magic... the magical, the wondrous, the spiritual.

And it will leave you alternately stunned, horrified, and amazed. It is a film of great... compassion. and great hope If you haven't seen it, or been avoiding it because of the subject matter, I completely understand. I did the same.

I'm not a big fan of films about falling down, I think looking at one's feet can become a habit, rehashing abuse can be... its own abuse. Especially when all that is portrayed... is the abuse.

It can be something of a self indulgence.

Look at our talk show society, victims happily paused, recounting endlessly their victimization, unable to move beyond it. I'm even less of a fan of films that marginalize the past, make it into this cookie cutter one size fits all experience.

Alex Hailey's roots comes to mind, or Gone with the Wind, or any number of Hollywood films about the west that typically just discount the true meltingpot, sumptuous and magical founding of this still very much troubled nation.

Discount truths, marvels, such as...

-Early inventors, inventions that launched the Industrial revolution, from Elevator to Traffic Light to Gas Mask to Telegaph came from this mass of wronged people. Early architecture, music. -The first cowboys were Black, odd how that's completely forgotten. -The founders of Chicago and LA, these Black scouts, these renaissance mountain men who spoke multiple languages, these pioneers, who went where so-called civilized men feared to tread, and made cities in the wild. -Fighters in the revolutionary war... Black. -Fighters in the civil war... on both sides... Black, yep... the south's answer to the North's military ploy, the Emancipation Proclamation... was to promise freedom for any Black and his family who put on the uniform... and fought for the grey. Many did. Many died wearing the grey.

Can you imagine it, that moment, a Black man wearing the Blue, and a Black man wearing the grey, looking across their rifles at each other, two sides of a war they never made, but that they would have to end. Truly a war of Brother vs. Brother.

That is the type of truth-is-stranger-than-fiction magic, that imbues every second of the early days of this nation. And it is a wonder, and an irony that very few films have ever captured that magic.

SANKOFA is one of those few.

There is a horror in the founding of this nation, this hemisphere, but there is a magic there. And there is ugliness in the founding of this nation, but there is great beauty there too.

They were magical people, these men and women and children, who American history still would demeaningly classify as slaves, rather than people who were enslaved, a seemingly minor distinction, but in that distinction rests acknowledging the wrong done, and the people, the people, not slaves, the people... it was done to.

This film is about beauty. And it's about people, farmers, seamstresses, griots, idlers, princes, paupers, masons, painters, singers, cooks, who one day found themselves... enslaved.

Sankofa is about the people we would call slaves, and their bloody fights... for humanity and freedom, under an inhuman system. For freedom, in a time of Holocaust. And it was a freedom no Emancipation proclamation gave, but a freedom they won, the only way anything is ever won, by making the days of slavery a bloody hell for slaver and enslaved.

By making the cost of blood... blood.

It is a film that remembers their... struggle. In a time when Black children are taught by a euro-centric curriculum only enough to despise their history, and themselves, and groomed to be only guard dog or guarded, this film is an essential thing.

It is about looking back to go forward. And honoring with every breath you take, those who died by the millions, that you can have the liberty... to live better, with more liberty, than they did. It is a film that passionately... in a time where media, and environment,and education have all betrayed these children... needs to be seen.

When so many have bought into the lie of their limitations, it is a film , deeply beautiful, about living beyond... labels.

And it is a film not everyone will get, the bigots won't get it, and the apologists won't get it, and the supporters of the status quo, and the soulless won't get it... but we few, we happy few, children of the Holocaust, we White children and Black and Native American, formed by the mixing blood of our unruly ancestors, we children of their promise and pain... for us the film is an ode and a debt... for what was done, and what remains to do.

Essential viewing.

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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Why Brothers wear Dark, Dark glasses.....

Author: Zeech from Brixton-pre yuppy era. London, UK
26 August 2001

Na mate, in my usual style, I won't touch on the plot, characters etc .. This is about me and 3 brothers who went to see this film. Some of us were West African, some Horn African (Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia etc), some Caribbean etc.

These usual jovial, come let we make jokes, guys went to see this film. Throughout the entire film we did not look at each other ONCE, at the end we avoided eye contact as we filed out. My jaw was aching from how hard I must have had it clenched to prevent it from opening and releasing floogates of emotions. Those emotions... man, that film showed me just how much pain there is in us, which we have not faced up to (before we were not allowed, but now we can if we are Lion enough to). I'd like to say we all got a wake up call from that film, and went on to find out more about the middle passage which was whitewashed outta of our schooling. But no, interestingly enough unlike the film's shallow model who does face up to the enslavement past, and grows from it. Some of my friends did the opposite and remain just like the model was like in the begining of the movie. And After watching the film -- again and again -- I can understand why.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Superb

10/10
Author: jazni from California
20 July 2000

This movie is so complex. Never before had an African writer/director ventured into such unknown territory. This movie is incredible! A black fashion model, who is posing for a fashion shoot amidst the beautiful scenery of Africa, is transported back in time through an African slave trade castle. Great cinematography and artistic creativity. This movie is not only entertainment, it is an experience!

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

totally destroys the myth of the happy and passive slave of early American history

9/10
Author: scr99016 from Halifax, Nova Scotia
25 April 2001

A very compelling story of what slavery was really like. The sometimes graphic but honest images left a very strong impression on me. No happy go lucky Uncle Toms willing to cater to the Master in all things. This film is one of my alternative favorites but is very hard to find. It should be required viewing for American history courses.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant and passionate.

10/10
Author: James B. from madison, wi.
30 August 2000

I saw this film in Washington, DC in 1995 and have since purchased the tape. It is a blast of African pride and anti-slavery vigor from Ethiopian-born director Haile Gerima. Gerima is a professor at Howard University in DC and his films confront the issues of race, integration, and violence in Africa and America. "Sankofa" is available through Mypheduh films (Gerima's production company) in DC.

The story begins and ends on a small island in West Africa, where 'Mona', an African-American fashion model, is in the present day. The middle of the film consists of Mona, through magic realism, being transported back to a slave plantation in 18th-century America. For those of you who wonder about what it was like to be a slave back then, under those barbaric and intolerable conditions, this is your chance. "Sankofa" is not for the faint of heart. Yet its violent scenes are never overdone, and the film's final 'message' is a positive one.

It's a shame that this film at this time has an IMDB "rating" of only 5 or so, because 31 of the 44 votes cast have been "10"s, including mine. I guess this film has alienated a few people, but most powerful films do that. A very important film from a gifted and underrated director.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

This move is Beautiful!!

10/10
Author: kswright1 from United States
24 January 2007

The first time I heard of this movie was in College. I then purchased myself a copy. This movie is Amazing, Probably the truest, realest movie regarding Slavery. It told of the horrors and abuse African people who were brought to this country endured.. I believe this is a must see for everyone regardless of races..The strength alone of the people, to deal with what they faced and to still rise above that is absolutely Incredible. It is a shame that this movie got no recognition in the US . I guess it would cause people to deal with the reality of the horrific brutality human beings faced during this darkest era in American History.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

African American history from African American perspective

10/10
Author: liselotte from Amsterdam
12 December 2003

Hailes Sankofa is the first and best movie about slavery ever made. Forget Amistad go see this movie if you can find it. The director of this movie could not get funding for this movie as the content was considered 'too controversial'. He made the movie outside of Hollywood and this resulted in a honest view on the history of slavery. This movie had bad distribution and no advertisement but it sold out at the box offices in America. The movie is named after the bird Sankofa. This bird is always looking back to where it came from. This massage is important throughout the movie; for a better understanding of the present and the future you need to know where you came from and how history has treated you.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

In awe.

Author: shicaca from Ohio
12 October 2002

This movie best depicted conditions of slavery that I have ever seen. Hearing so many things in books and from school teachers dillutes the mind a little and makes it feel very mild from the way they speak. I was especially in awe how they made it so real yet didn't even hardly show blood at all. I watched it a second time to make sure; it doesn't!

If you are going to watch this on your own accord (i.e.- not in a class where you can't get another copy), PLEASE watch it more than once. I've heard this so many times about so many other movies, but it's awesomly true in this case! 'You can not POSSIBLY get everything w/ one viewing'.

I'm off to write a paper about this movie, but I think I must rent it once more before I get done with the paper to get even more info; there's just that much.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Outstanding

10/10
Author: realredundant from United Kingdom
20 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is no better movie on that period in history. It shows the African spirit not only as passive and accepting or merely as a vehicle to be brutalised by an antagonist who is given all the lines but here the Africans are allowed to be people. We see a real portrayal of people with feelings, emotions and lives.

It touches on some of the aspects of mental slavery that other movies avoid, such as the biracial son of the master and a slave being indoctrinated with the church to hate his black mother and her spirituality. The scenes with him gazing longingly at white Madonna and child imagery in a church being attended to by a white priest telling about his wicked heathen mother really ring home.

From start to finish this is definitely the black perspective on slavery. Amistad is nothing to this. Amistad was about a court case, did nothing to the actualities of slavery or the deeper issues as Sankofa did with panache and feeling.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Tara was fiction, this is real!

10/10
Author: t-tomusko from United States
23 October 2005

Most older movies and many movies in general like "Song of the South" and "Gone With the Wind" depicted Slavery as an okay instuition. In those films Slaves are depicted as Happy in that institiution, but in this film you see how Slaves really felt. Also you can see their humanity and knowledge where in older films they were depicted as ignorant.

This film is really, really neat for an independent film, and it shows a real slave castle in Gahana. Sankofa is a term that... Well, get the movie and you will learn more about it.

It does a good job of taking you through the film from a slaves point of view. The film uses that interesting "lens" to illustrate just how wrong slavery was. It also gives insight into the family unit among slaves, which may explain the black family today in America. Understanding the history of black families during slavery may be used to help understand the black family today in it's struggles to have cohesiveness.

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