News & Politics

Haile Gerima’s Classic Film “Sankofa” Is Now on Netflix Thanks to Ava DuVernay

The Howard professor's 1993 movie has been restored and rereleased.

A restored version of DC-based filmmaker Haile Gerima’s 1993 feature Sankofa is available to watch on Netflix starting today. The cinematic work is a narrative of remembrance and resistance, mostly focused on the stories of enslaved people on a Southern plantation. Director Ava DuVernay’s independent distribution company, Array, is behind the film’s rerelease on the streaming platform.

When Sankofa debuted in the early ’90s, distributors largely disregarded the movie. The longtime Howard University film professor and his wife, Shirkiana, opted to self-distribute, booking screenings at independent theaters and bookstores. The Gerimas also own DC’s beloved Sankofa bookstore, which is dedicated to books and films about the African diaspora and was named after the Ethiopian-born director’s film.

DuVernay previously brought a movie by Haile and Shirkiana’s son, Merawi, to Netflix. Titled Residue, it examines issues of gentrification and racism in Washington.

Watch the trailer for Sankofa here:

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Daniella Byck
Assistant Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in August 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied journalism and digital culture.