10/21/2016 Peter Durantine

Documentarian Looks at a Century of Italian Films Featuring Black Actors

“Salambô,” an Italian film made in 1914, starred Domenic Gaido, the first Italian black actor whose story director Fred Kudjo Kuwornu tells in his new documentary, “Blaxploitalian,” which screens Oct. 25 at Franklin & Marshall College.

An Italian with Ghanaian roots, Kuwornu’s film explores the careers of many black artists – cast in Neorealist films, commedie all’italiana or contemporary television series – whose contributions have been ignored by Italian film historians.  

When “Blaxploitalian” premiered Oct. 16 at the Casa del Cinema in Rome, 100 film artists of different ethnic and national origins gathered to launch United Artists of Italy, a campaign to increase inclusivity and diversity in Italian media as well as to discourage ethnic and racial stereotypes in casting, said F&M Associate Professor of Italian Giovanna Faleschini Lerner.

  • An Italian with Ghanaian roots, Kuwornu’s film, "Blaxpoitalian" explores the careers of many black artists. An Italian with Ghanaian roots, Kuwornu’s film, "Blaxpoitalian" explores the careers of many black artists. Image Credit: Fred Kuwornu

Kurwornu, who was born and raised in Italy to an Italian Jewish mother and a Ghanaian father, is now based in Brooklyn, N.Y. He has a political science and mass media degree from the University of Bologna. He began his career as a TV show writer in Rome and has worked with the production crew of Spike Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna.”

The work with Lee’s film inspired him to research the story of the U.S. Army 92nd Infantry “Buffalo Soldiers” Division, discovering and documenting the journey of the African-American segregated combat unit that fought in Europe during World War II. Kuwornu’s documentary, “Inside Buffalo,” earned a Best Documentary award at the Black Berlin International Cinema Festival.

“Blaxploitalian” screens at 7 p.m., Oct. 25 in the auditorium of the Barshinger Life Sciences and Philosophy Building. A Q&A with Kuwornu will follow the film.  

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