500 Years Later

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500 Years Later
Directed by Owen 'Alik Shahadah
Produced by Owen 'Alik Shahadah
Ako Oseyaba Mitchell
M. K. Asante, Jr.
Written by M. K. Asante, Jr.
Starring Kimani Nehusi
Molefi Kete Asante
Maulana Karenga
Muhammad Shareef
Paul Robeson, Jr.
Francis Cress Welsing
Amiri Baraka
Bill Cosby
Hakim Adi
Khaleel Muhammad
Mighty Gabby
M. K. Asante, Jr.
Music by Tunde Jegede
Distributed by Codeblack Entertainment
Release dates
October 11, 2005
Running time
108 min.
Language English
Budget $1 million

500 Years Later (፭፻ ዓመታት በኋላ 500 ʿamätatə bähwala) is an independent documentary film directed by Owen 'Alik Shahadah, written by M. K. Asante, Jr. and released in 2005. It has won five international film festival awards in the category of Best Documentary (including UNESCO "Breaking the Chains Award").[1][2][3] It has also won other awards including, "Best Documentary at the Pan African (Los Angeles) and Bridgetown (Barbados) Film Festivals; Best Film at the International Black Cinema (Berlin) Film Festival; and Best International Documentary at the Harlem (New York) International Film Festival".[4] 500 Years Later has received praise as well as controversy, both for the genre of the film (creative documentary), and the social-political impact of the film as it relates to race study. The film opened on February 28, 2005, at the Pan-African Awards (PAFF) and won Best Documentary at its premiere. The film made its American television premiere on August 23, 2008, on TV One (Radio One), and Ethiopian Television premiere on October 27, 2007. It was shown nationally in South Africa on December 14, 2014, on SABC 2.[5][6] In 2010, the sequel Motherland was released.


The movie 500 Years Later stretches the world in its study of the African Diaspora and the impact of slavery throughout its history. It specifically identifies key issues facing the black communities in the world outside of Africa like poor education, poverty, crime, and others. The movie gives great attention to the dehumanization and degradation of black peoples through these highlighted issues. The film also gives insight to struggles Africans face today including poverty, disease, and corrupt governments. While 500 Years Later is a movie about how slavery negatively affected and still affects African descendants today, scholars in the movie have hope that through the education of their history "old scars can be healed" and as a race Africans can advance. This movie highlights and describes the influence of slave trade among the African population and that way it deserves attention and appreciation. [7]


The film states that the lasting effects of slavery are still felt 500 years later, hence the title. This is justified and explained in the film through a series of scholarly interviews that occur throughout the film. The film begins with an adage that illustrates the film's historical theme: "Until lions tell their story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." "500 Years Later is a compelling journey, infused with the spirit and music of liberation, that chronicles the struggle of a people from enslavement who continue to fight for the most essential human right - freedom."[8] Filled with the spirit of Africa, the film presents the richness of African cultures and traditions and how they have evolved since slavery was abolished. Rich in images and sound, the film then states that prior to the beginning of the Atlantic Slave Trade Africans were free. The images provided in the documentary concerning the slave trade are eye-opening for the audience. The film includes testimonies, voices, and opinions gathered around five continents. Many of the people who voice their opinion are scholars or experts on the African diaspora.[9] Those interviewed in the film criticize contemporary rap music as being particularly negative for Africans and their descendants, as they believe it reinforced racist stereotypes. Stereotypes established in part because of the slave trade. A lasting example of these stereotypes referenced in the film is a study performed by Kenneth and Mamie Clark where black children were given a variety of dolls, including black and white ones, and were told to pick the "smarter" or "better" one. A majority of the black children chose the white dolls. Many of those interviewed believe that a distinct change to the educational system is necessary to change the mindset of people of African descent. The film affirms that "the kind of education that we have is to still enslave our minds, to make us believe we are inferior."[10] Education should be the main weapon for the new generations of Africans and African descendants, to remind the world of the richness and struggle of African history. At the end of the film, Africans are encouraged to remember their past, every culture has a past, and they must remember theirs in order to move forward. Making it through enslavement should be a strength, not a weakness or something to be ashamed about, the people who enslaved the Africans should be the ones that are ashamed. Essentially, the goal is to teach African children a more Afrocentric history, instead of a Eurocentric one.Teaching African descent people about a history that is not their own is not going to help because they cannot relate to it. They must establish and promote African ideas and history in order to preserve what they want for future generations. The film is calling for the ideas that are promoted within it to become mainstream so that there can be a better Africa and a better history associated with the continent.[11]


The cast features key figures from the African-American academic world.

Awards and nominations[edit]

UNESCO award[edit]

500 Years Later was the first film to win a UNESCO award for documenting slavery. And was part of UNESCO slave route project started in 1994: "The prize awarded $10,000 to a film that breaks the silence and speaks to the social, historical, economic and psychological impact of the slave trade; a film that raises public awareness of slavery’s historical and contemporary manifestations; a film that gives voice to the dispossessed, reflects their perspectives and articulates their resistance to this dehumanization."[12] UNESCO launched the Slave Route Project in 1994. This project wants to increase knowledge and understanding in terms of slavery and historical events related to it.[citation needed]

Critical Reception[edit]

Kingsley Sheteh, from A Neo-Copernican Review, asserts that the film 500 Years Later is a step in the right direction in depicting the relationship between the Western world and Africa, showcasing the historically dependent and underdeveloped status of African countries. Shetah also pointed out that, although the movie did a great job in touching on sensitive issue that are causes for Africa's problems, it is worth mentioning it failed to treat the issue of conflict. Shetah cites reasons that independent African state governments are heavily corrupted due to problems that can't be simply be tied down to ideology, slavery, and colonialism.[13][verification needed] While not exactly presenting overly new information, the documentary's delivery of the material and evidence is refreshing, meant to promote discussion among groups of people.[14]

500 Years Later holds a 6.8/10 rating on IMDb.com from over 150 users.[15] It also holds an audience approval rating of 88% on rotten tomatoes from over 340 voters, and has an average rating of 4.2 out of 5.[16] Many critics received the film as a way to explore African history like never before. The film is a compilation of interviews that offer history from the perspective of people who's knowledge has been suppressed for years. "500 Years Later" is applauded for its vast focus on African history, both the good and the bad.[17]

Despite much success, 500 Years Later received mixed reviews from critics regarding content and presentation. Dan Schindel, a documentary reviewer, calls the film "The Malcolm X to the MLK of the average doc that covers African-related material"[18] and offers many examples of the extremity of the film. An article titled, "Destroying the Horrors of 500 Years" found on the African Holocaust website, written by Attahiru Kawu-Bala in 2006, praised the film as an "articulate multi-dimensional African world perspective" in regards to the effects of African Diaspora. Kawu-Bala argued that the techniques used in this documentary did not rely on emotion and instead used facts and truth to build a case from an African standpoint.[19] In contrast, Curt Holman recognized the film's righteousness, but believed "a more informative film would have been more effective." He found the video to be emotionally charged and, at times, overly obvious. According to Holman, the emotional biases sometimes overshadowed the factual content.[20]

Wanuri Kahiu, a Kenyan film director, states the film is a discussion between the "greatest and most articulate thinkers of the African global nation." In Wanuri Kahiu's review on 500 Years Later, Kahiu wrote that the documentary should not be referred to as a film but rather an "audiovisual reference book" because of how informative the documentary is. According to Kahiu, 500 Years Later is a good resource to show the challenges people of African descent faced during the Diaspora and slavery and the challenges they still face today.[21] Wanuri states that 500 years later is a great representation of the strength of the African American culture and citizenry[22] Kahiu claims that the movie is a call for African people to patiently work to rid the African World of the "defeatist nature" still subconsciously ingrained in them today.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Winners at the Wayback Machine (archived November 10, 2007). Zanzibar International Film Festival.
  2. ^ "500 Years Later" at Cinema Politicia.
  3. ^ "Re-Storying Africa", Gauteng Film Commission, 2008.
  4. ^ "AFRICAN HOLOCAUST | Destroying the Horrors of 500 Years". www.africanholocaust.net. Retrieved 2015-12-08. 
  5. ^ TV Schedule for SABC2, 2014-12-14.
  6. ^ TV Schedule for SABC2, 2014-12-21.
  7. ^ "500 Years Later". cinema politica. Retrieved 2015-12-10. 
  8. ^ "500 Years Later — MK Asante". mkasante.com. Retrieved 2015-12-11. 
  9. ^ "Molefi Kete Asante, Author, Scholar, and Historian". Retrieved 3 December 2015. 
  10. ^ "500 Years Later - Time For Africa to Forget... A Review!!!". A NEO-COPERNICAN REVIEW. Retrieved 2015-12-03. 
  11. ^ the film, 500 Years Later
  12. ^ Swahiliweb.net
  13. ^ "500 Years Later - Time For Africa to Forget... A Review!!!". A NEO-COPERNICAN REVIEW. Retrieved 2015-12-08. 
  14. ^ "500 Years Later - Time For Africa to Forget... A Review!!!". A NEO-COPERNICAN REVIEW. Retrieved 2015-12-03. 
  15. ^ "500 Years Later (2005)". IMDB. Retrieved December 3, 2015. 
  16. ^ "500 Years Later". www.rottentomatoes.com. 2005-02-24. Retrieved 2015-12-08. 
  17. ^ Sheteh, Kingsley. "500 Years Later-Time for Africa to Forget...A Review". www.newuh.wordpress.com. Retrieved December 3, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Doc of the Day: 500 Years Later Review - Dan Schindel". Dan Schindel. Retrieved 2015-12-08. 
  19. ^ "AFRICAN HOLOCAUST | Destroying the Horrors of 500 Years". www.africanholocaust.net. Retrieved 2015-12-03. 
  20. ^ "Tales from the diaspora". Creative Loafing Atlanta. Retrieved 2015-12-03. 
  21. ^ "500 Years Later...More than a Film" (PDF). African Holocaust. Retrieved 2015-12-07. 
  22. ^ Kahui, Wanuri (December 8, 2015). "500 Years Later...More Than A Movie" (PDF). African Holocaust. 

External links[edit]