Ava DuVernay’s Array announces inaugural workshop in partnership with Haile Gerima

A woman in a red dress poses for a portrait
Ava DuVernay’s Array has announced a masterclass by Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

On Monday, Ava DuVernay’s Array collective announced the launch of its inaugural Los Angeles-based workshop in partnership with the Sankofa Film Academy. “Liberated Territory: A Masterclass by Haile Gerima” will be taught by the Ethiopian filmmaker and L.A. Rebellion film movement leader on Array’s campus this fall.

DuVernay founded the Peabody Award-winning collective Array in 2011. With its four-pronged approach and entities, the organization is an independent film distribution and resource collective dedicated to bolstering films created by people of color and women.

Critically acclaimed filmmaker DuVernay said in a press release that Gerima is a hero of hers and inspired her to create her own film distribution company.

A man wearing glasses stares into a computer screen
Haile Gerima edits his upcoming documentary, “The Children of Adwa.”

“He disrupted the system long before anyone was willing to take notice and continues to chart his own path,” said DuVernay. “Launching the ARRAY Masterclass program with Mr. Gerima is a surreal once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can’t wait to watch him in action as he shares his filmmaking expertise with the next wave of disruptive filmmakers at our liberated territory, the ARRAY Creative Campus.”

Born and raised in Ethiopia, Gerima immigrated to the United States in 1967 and attended UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. A leading member of the late-’60s L.A. Rebellion, the independent filmmaker has won multiple awards at the Festival de Cannes, including the Georges Sadoul critics award.

His 1993 film, “Sankofa,” was snubbed by U.S. distributors, but Gerima took it upon himself to self-distribute. He poured efforts into Black communities, ultimately leading to sold-out screenings in independent theaters nationally.

Ava DuVernay talks about her Array Alliance campus, a space where women and artists of color promote and showcase their work, in Historic Filipinotown.

Oct. 1, 2019

In 1996, Gerima cofounded an independent film production and distribution company, home to the Sankofa Video and Bookstore, in Washington, D.C.

In September, Gerima will be honored at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ opening gala with the inaugural Vantage Award. While his legacy is finally being heralded in the mainstream, he said DuVernay has always been a supporter of his work and he looks forward to instilling skills into the next generation.


Just a few years before Ava DuVernay’s beautifully realized civil rights drama “Selma” took her to the Oscars and the Golden Globes, the director found herself wondering whether her debut feature, the intimate character study “I Will Follow,” would ever see the light of day.

Sept. 8, 2015

“I come from a generation of filmmakers — independent filmmakers in the late 60s, early 70s — where making films about marginalized communities and people of color was not always accepted by mainstream audiences,” Gerima said in a statement Monday.

“This Master Class is structured based on my personal practice, not only writing my own screenplays but also directing and editing my own films. Most of all, it demonstrates how editing my own films shaped my ideas of holistic filmmaking.”

To complete their feature film on slavery, independent producers Haile Gerima and Shirikiana Aina pleaded for foundation grants, bartered for plane tickets and lodging and charged supplies on their credit cards.

Jan. 25, 1994

The intensive, five-day workshop will be broken into parts — the Art and Craft of Screenplay, Cinematography, and Film Directing — and students will have the opportunity to explore Gerima’s past work. It is open to storytellers of all levels, across all mediums, and all artists who desire “deeper understanding of connecting their personal roots to narrative story development.”

To apply before Aug. 9, visit