I’ll take the blame for that. I did want to return to Sankofa. It’s a film that has taken you all over the world. You’ve talked about the reaction to it, the embrace of it. Ahead of working on this rerelease, I was wondering, when was the last time you sat down and watched it?

When we opened it—every time, I had to watch it with the audience, because I was really interested in learning from the response of the audience. My imperfection was amplified. It was like film school for me.

But it’s a film that, I’ll tell you this, my sister, I don’t know where I got the energy. My wife and I, we co-produced it and suffered together. For the production itself, we [shot in] two African countries, Ghana and Burkina Faso, and had European financing. You can’t imagine how low budget it was, but we made it. The audacity that I had in that film! This is what I’m seeing now [when I watch it]. How did I do it? I was racing with time and the way I was shooting—it’s unbelievable. A lot of it had to do with the fact that every stumbling block I received in America became part of the energy to make it happen.

One day, a guy [who ran a theater showing Sankofa] called me and said, “I’m evicting you from my theater.” And I said, “Why?” He said, “My manager checked into a hospital.” So I said, “…What does that got to do with us?” He said, “It’s the Sankofa tension.” This is the first time I’m hearing “Sankofa tension!” Look at white people! A movie we made for us as a normal movie, he tells me it’s “Sankofa tension.” Okay. So I said to him, “Next door, Die Hard is playing. Is there Die Hard tension?” And he says, “Don’t be funny.” The last day of the show, they almost created a big problem trying to evict people before the film was over. There were police trucks, there were fire trucks. And they expected us to riot, but we told people we don’t go there. We just did our movie. And we’re winning.

More Great Stories From Vanity Fair

— Cover Story: Regina King Is in Her Element
— Even on Film, Dear Evan Hansen Can’t Fix the Musical’s Main Problem
Linda Tripp’s Daughter Wishes Her Mom Was Around to See Impeachment: American Crime Story
— Unlucky Star: The Brief, Bombastic Life of Rudolph Valentino
Emmys 2021 Winners: See the Full List Here
LuLaRich’s Derryl on Taking Down LuLaRoe and Boycotting Kelly Clarkson
— What Michaela Coel Did With I May Destroy You Is Bigger Than the Emmys
Love Is a Crime: Inside One of Hollywood’s Wildest Scandals
Dune Gets Lost in Space
— From the Archive: The Making of Ghostbusters
— Sign up for the “HWD Daily” newsletter for must-read industry and awards coverage—plus a special weekly edition of “Awards Insider.”