Artist Biographies

John Kani


John Kani is a veteran actor, playwright, and now film director from South Africa. He is perhaps best known for working with playwright Athol Fugard and fellow actor Winston Ntshona to create, act in and produce plays that highlighted the atrocities of the South African apartheid era. Sizwe Bansi Is Dead and The Island are among their best known collaborations.  Kani’s most recent play, Nothing But The Truth, is a gripping investigation into the complex dynamic between those blacks who remained in South Africa and risked their lives to lead the struggle against apartheid and those who returned victoriously after living in exile.  After successful stage performances of the play in South Africa, London, and New York, in which Kani played the lead role, he turned his play into a film of the same title.  The film, which stars Kani, won the prestigious Silver Stallion of Yennega, the second-place prize at FESPACO in March 2009.

Joséphine Ndagnou


Joséphine Ndagnou, a native Cameroonian, holds a diploma in Audio-Visual Production from the Ecole Supérieure de Réalisation Audiovisuelle in Paris, and a Masters in Cinematographic and Audio-Visual Studies from Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne.  A director with the national television station of Cameroon (CRTV) for 15 years, she has played a role in many telefilms produced by CRTV and appears in Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s Les SaignantesParis or Nothing is her first full-length film, which she not only wrote, directed, and produced but also plays the leading role of Suzy, who will do anything to leave her native Cameroon for Paris.

George Amponsah


George Amponsah is an award-winning, critically acclaimed director who has been making films since the late 80s.  His early super-8 films in art college, which focused on questions about identity, culminated in a post-graduate film that won him a scholarship to attend the documentary course at Britain’s prestigious National Film and Television School.  Since then, Amponsah has won awards for his film work from the BBC, Kodak, and the Royal Television Society, and he has worked with some of Britain’s most prolific television production companies.  While making short films for the Web and developing new feature films, Amponsah continues to work as a tutor with young people, using digital video as a tool with which to express views from outside the mainstream.  He will present his documentary film, The Fighting Spirit, about three boxers, two men and a women, who live in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Accra, Ghana, who fight their way to the glittering rings of New York and London.

Haile Gerima

Director of SANKOFA and TEZA

Born and raised in Gondor, Ethiopia, Haile Gerima came to the U.S. in the early 1970s to study, teach, and make films.  The majority of Gerima’s film projects have examined problems facing African Americans. Although he is Ethiopia’s best-known film director, he has spent most of his career in the United States. In 1976 he released Bush Mama, a black-and-white film about the political awakening of a black welfare mother. That same year Gerima joined the faculty of Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he continues to serve as Professor of Film and Black Studies.

In 1977 he released a documentary on the case of the Wilmington 10 titled Wilmington 10-USA 10,000, which he made with the help of students at Howard University and volunteers from the local community. In 1982 he finished Ashes and Embers, a story about African American veterans of the Vietnam War, and in 1985 he released After Winter: Sterling Brown, a documentary about African American poet Sterling Brown, also made with student cooperation. He is best known for his powerful 1993 feature film, Sankofa, which focuses on the experience of slavery in the United States.  His screening of Sankofa at the 5th Cascade Festival in 1995, together with his dialogue with the audience following the film, remains one of the most memorable evenings in the recent history of Oregon’s African and African-American communities.

The same can be said for his return in 2003 to present Adwa, a film that resurrects the memory of the 1896 battle in which an Ethiopian army of men and women armed with spears and knives defeated an army of 20,000 well-armed Italian colonial invaders.  In his presentation of the film, Gerima discussed the implications of the Adwa experience – its capacity to shift the standard understanding of the colonial experience, as well as the mechanism for its continued life within the Ethiopian oral tradition.  It was again a very powerful, provocative evening for immigrant and native-born Oregonians alike.

His latest film, Teza, won the 2009 Grand Prize award at the Pan-African Film Festival (FESPACO) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the top festival for African Films.  Although Gerima has worked and lived in the United States after 1969, he has maintained close ties with other African film directors. An active member of the Fédération Panafricaine des Cinéastes and the Comité Africain des Cinéastes, Gerima has also coordinated several colloquia and meetings of African film directors in the United States. In addition, Gerima’s own studio, Mypheduh Films, Inc., is one of the leading distributors of films by Africans and African Americans in the United States.