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500 Years Later
Directed byOwen 'Alik Shahadah
Produced byOwen 'Alik Shahadah
Ako Oseyaba Mitchell
M.K. Asante, Jr.
Written byM.K. Asante, Jr.
StarringKimani 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 byTunde Jegede
Distributed byHalaqah Media Distribution Co.
Release date(s)October 11, 2005
Running time108 min.
Budget$1 million

500 Years Later (፭፻ ዓመታት በጓላ 500 ʿamätatə bägwala) is the title of an independent documentary film directed by Owen 'Alik Shahadah, written by M.K. Asante, Jr. released in 2005. It won five international film festival awards (including UNESCO 'Breaking the Chains Award'[1]) in the category of Best Documentary. 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. In 2010 the sequel Motherland (film) was released.


Crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, poor education, inferiority complex, low expectation, poverty, corruption, poor health, and underdevelopment plagues people of African descent globally. 500 years later from the onset of slavery and subsequent colonialism, Africans are still struggling for basic freedom. Filmed in five continents, and over twenty countries, 500 Years Later engages the retrospective voice, told from the African vantage-point.

Music: African Classical

This soundtrack offers a glimpse into the worlds and landscapes that make up the music of the African Diaspora. The breadth of this rich cultural legacy that often has to exist within the limited confines of the genres defined and created by others outside of itself. But, it is only when we see this legacy in its entirety that we can begin to appreciate and understand its magnitude and see why it has been, and continues to be, one of the most influential forces within music and culture.


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

Awards and nominations

  • 2007 Winner, UNESCO/Zanzibar International Film Festival, "Breaking the Chains" award
  • 2007 Nominated, FESPACO, Paul Robeson award "Best of the Diaspora"
  • 2005 Winner, Pan-African Film Festival, Best Documentary PAFF
  • 2005 Winner, Bridgetown Film Festival, Best Documentary
  • 2005 Winner, Berlin Black Film Festival, Best Film
  • 2005 Winner, Harlem International Film Festival, Best International Documentary

UNESCO Award And reception

500 Years Later was the first film to win a UNESCO award for documenting slavery. UNESCO subsequently funded a series of documentaries which would document slavery. When 500 Years Later was first sent to Channel 4 the Commissioning Editor Documentaries, Danny Cohen said "It's an interesting idea but I'm afraid, with limited slots available, it's not one I feel strongly enough about to take forward."[2]. The producers complained about the racism involved in screening African-centred content and many in the African-British community saw this as part of the Racism in the United Kingdom.[3] Even California Newsreel who applauded the approach said "While we applaud your effort to present African and African American history in a new and more favorable light, we think that your innovative techniques and broad scope are too radical for our largely academic market." Despite this the film has be internationally recognized as the hallmark film on the legacy of slavery and used in Universities and academic boards (e.g. Toronto School district)in the USA, UK, Caribbean and Canada.[4][5]


  • The documentary does not use any narration which is rare for a feature length film; it uses the interviewees in a unique way to create a seamless transition from topic to topic.
  • The film uses a mixture of quotes and statistics, as well as sound bites to support its claims
  • 500 Years Later uses chapters to divide the topics.
  • One of the few documentaries made in line with the politics of the African Code.
  • The film was the first mainstream Western documentary to use Ge'ez characters for the film title, ፭፻ ዓመታት በጓላ (500 ʿamätatə bägwala) . The script also appears in the trailer and promotional material of the film.
  • Features Bill Cosby's "Pound Cake Speech."

See also


  2. "500 Years Later experience". African Holocaust Society. Retrieved 2005-01-04.
  3. "Film review 500". Retrieved 2007-01-04.
  4. "NY Times 500". The New York Times. Retrieved 2005-01-04.

External links