// Presented as part of Filmatique's Contemporary Black Cinema Series //
Exclusive Interview with Fred Kudjo Kuwornu
Spotlight on Blaxploitalian
Fred Kudjo Kuwornu / USA-Italy, 2016 / BAMcinématek New Voices in Black Cinema, Charlotte Black Film Festival, Martha's Vineyard, Martinique, Pan African Film Festival, Rome, San Francisco Black Film Festival, Sole Luca Doc Festival / 65'
Born to an Italian mother and a Ghanian father, filmmaker Fred Kudjo Kuwornu embarks on an inquiry into the history of black performers onscreen in Italy since the advent of cinema itself, some one hundred years ago. Framed as a quest for his own identity, Kudjo Kuwornu meticulously chronicles the subjugation of black identity in early portrayals alongside the obstacles that even the most famous black performers face in the country today.
Melding individual and collective experiences of exploitation with a particular study of cinema history, Blaxploitalian's findings apply to multi-faceted aspects of Italian culture as well as the entertainment industry as a whole. Kudjo Kuwornu's third documentary film premiered at Rome, Martinique, Martha's Vineyard and the Pan African Film Festival and has screened at over a dozen universities across the world.
"Fascinating doc Blaxploitalian surveys the history of blackness in Italian cinema... His project— tracing the onscreen appearance of black performers over a century— involves not only film history but also Italian politics and cultural shifts. This leads to some startling discoveries, such as the 1943 fascist propaganda film Harlem Knockout, which used African-American prisoners of war in its boxing scenes. Kuwornu also explores Italian colonialism in Africa, including Benito Mussolini's conquest of Somalia. This history may have been whitewashed in modern Italy, he argues, but the colonial image of Africans— exoticized women and fearsome men— lingers in contemporary portrayals"
- Serena Donadoni, Film Review, The Village Voice