Throughout the month of September the “ASHE: The Sankofa Black Film Festival,” is showcasing films that bring the history of the civil rights movement to the present.
Dr. Meta Schettler, associate professor of Africana studies, said the purpose of the festival is found in its title.
Schettler said the words “ashe” and “sankofa” both have symbolic meanings. Schettler said the word ashe means “flash of spirit,” and the word Sankofa means to look into the past, something she said the Africana studies department puts great emphasis on.
“It’s really about historical consciousness, to go back and retrieve,” Schettler said. “It’s a symbol that we use in the department a lot for representing learning from our history to move forward into the future.”
Schettler said the conference was also named for the first film it showed on Sept. 3. The festival screened the 1993 movie “Sankofa,” which Schettler said told the story of a late 20th century African-American model who travels back in time and experiences the traumas of slavery.
Schettler said messages like the ones in “Sankofa” are woven throughout the movies shown during the festival, some produced more recently than others, and are communicated strongly through film.
“There’s a lot of overlaps between the films that represents life in the African-American community,” Schettler said. “To me, the vehicle students can get from it [the festival] is to learn about African-American culture and African-American history.”
Schettler said the next film, Spike Lee’s “Clockers,” will be shown on Sept. 10. A film about the drug trade and drug war in the 1990s, Schettler said “Clockers” was one of the movies that impacted her during her own college years. Schettler credits the impact of the film to director Spike Lee.
“He kind of flips that script in ‘Clockers’ to make it less simple,” Schettler said. “There’s a grey area where they’re both impacted by this harsh environment of living in the inner city.”
In “Clockers” and the next few films, Schettler said the director’s intention is to provide the audience with images of the past that not only represent the past, but parallel the present.
“It’s not like we’re completely cut off from that history,” Schettler said. “In order for it to make sense, in order for current events to make sense, we need to know what’s happening before.”
Schettler said this kind of alternative view was important for the department to present, and said they wanted to choose their directors very carefully to provide their students with the most accurate viewpoint.
“It’s not like a traditional Hollywood kind of film festival,” Schettler said. “We wanted to show an African aesthetic or a black aesthetic in film.”
Learning about the history of different cultures and ethnicities is especially important, Schettler said, for students who are very young. Schettler said stories like the Jena Six case, in which six black students from Louisiana were arrested for beating up their white classmate, are not even memories for students in their early twenties.
“So Jena Six was just like a blip,” Schettler said. “Even though it was only six years ago, people don’t have a conscious memory of it.”
Schettler said the festival also has a few surprises in store. Schettler said Dr. T. Hasan Johnson, an assistant professor of Africana studies at Fresno State, managed to secure an appearance by actor Delroy Lindo from “Clockers.”
“I’m very excited for Delroy Lindo to come,” Schettler said. “I think we’re extremely lucky.
“Dr. Johnson seems to have a talent for bringing famous people to campus.”
Lindo will speak after the last screening, and Schettler said he should be open for questions and possibly autographs.
Schettler said the festival takes place every Tuesday in September in Industrial Technology room 101 at 6 p.m.
Schettler said the discussions are powerful, and all students are welcome to participate.