Penn prof wins best documentary film award

African Independence

Tukufu Zuberi

Tukufu Zuberi, chair of the Department of Sociology, stands at the West Africa Company Memorial. His film "African Independence" won the Best Documentary Film award at the 2013 San Diego Black Film Festival.

Tukufu Zuberi, chair of the Department of Sociology and the Lasry Family Professor of Race Relations in the School of Arts and Sciences, is making a name for himself on the film festival circuit.

His film “African Independence” won the Best Documentary Film award and earned Zuberi the Best Director award at its world premiere at the 2013 San Diego Black Film Festival. The film was Zuberi’s first.

“I can just say I grew up looking at a lot of documentaries and I’m influenced by a lot of good and bad work,” he says.

Although he hasn’t had any formal training, Zuberi has long explored film as a medium to develop critical sociological conversation. As a host for 10 seasons on the nationally syndicated PBS television series “History Detectives,” he says he has had plenty of on-the-job training combining sounds and images “to render complex historical information understandable.”

Last month, the professor-turned-filmmaker completed final production on the feature-length documentary and began submitting it to festivals across the country.

“I make films as an extension of my desire to educate, so being awarded the Best Documentary Film and Best Director at the film festival came as a surprise,” Zuberi says. “I could not have anticipated the buzz that it is generating.” 

“African Independence” covers the history of the African continent since enslavement and colonization by Europeans. The film highlights the birth and realization of the movement to win independence in Africa, as well as some of the movement's challenges. The story is told through 20 African voices.  

The continent’s past, present, and future is examined through the lens of four watershed events: World War II, the end of colonialism, the Cold War, and the era of African republics.

Zuberi financed the film and produced it with the company he founded in 2007, TZ Production Company. He worked with his son, Jabari Zuberi, 25, and a production crew of Americans and African-based technicians.

For more information about the film, visit african-independence.com.

Originally published on February 14, 2013