Trailer: 'BlaxploItalian' (Documentary on History of Blacks in Italian Cinema)

April 20 2017

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Shadow and Act has been reporting on the documentary “BlaxploItalian: 100 Years of Blackness in Italian Cinema” and its director Fred ‘Kudjo’ Kuwornu, for some time now. Kuwornu and others have begun a movement toward demanding diversity on film in Italy, one of the documentary’s main subjects, which has sparked the creation of a new initiative, United Artists For Italy. Born naturally as “a response to the stereotyped images produced in a flyer of an Italian institution in which to represent 'bad habits' images of blacks and Latinos were used,” they are actively combating this ‘social problem’ representation of black men, women, LGBT, and disabled people in “Italian society in advertising, fiction, the movies, or even in the communication of institutions.”

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The UAFI’s members and supporters, which include notable Italian actors and artists Jonis Bascir, Livio Bescir, Ira Fronten, Iris Peyando, Leslie Sackey, Antonio Distefano, Hedy Krissane, Bobby Rhodes, Tztà Abraham, Germano Gentile (whose picture graces the new poster), Nadia Beddini, and Tamara Rizzoli, will be in full at the premiere. Their hashtag #DiversityInMediaMatters will be widely implemented during and after the screening.

Kuwornu will continue the UAFI’s work, also born out of the struggles of stateside African-American actors with #OscarsSoWhite, and UK BAME’s work spearheaded by notables like actors Idris Elba and Lenny Henry, as he takes “BlaxploItalian” to USA and other international film festivals.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (the Oscars) also recently attended a private screening of “BlaxploItalian.” This past summer, Isaacs shared a panel with Kuwornu and superstar actor Danny Glover at the Ischia Global Film and Music Festival.

Danny Glover, Fred Kuwornu, and Cheryl Boone Isaacs on panel at 2016 Ischia Global Film & Music Festival Danny Glover, Fred Kuwornu, and Cheryl Boone Isaacs on panel at 2016 Ischia Global Film & Music Festival

A bit more on “BlaxploItalian,” the documentary is an international story that follows Italian born director Fred Kuwornu as he unlocks his personal struggle with identity against the one-hundred year history of Blacks in Italian cinema, which begins in the silent film era with the un-credited Black man that appeared in the 1914 film "Salambo," then tracks through colonial films, the neorealism period, and the still troublesome contemporary times. Interviews chronicling the lives of screen beauties Zeudi Araya and Iris Peynado, and contemporary actors like Jonis Bascir and Germano Gentile, center Fred’s journey, but also key are the contributions of noteworthy African-American actors, like American blaxploitation star Fred “the Hammer” Williamson (in Enzo Castellariʼs "The Inglorious Bastards") and western genre mainstay Woody Strode ("Black Jesus"), who added to the international importance of a Black presence in Italian cinema.

'BlaxploItalian' featured interviewees Denny Mendez and Livio Beshir 'BlaxploItalian' featured interviewees Denny Mendez and Livio Beshir

Yet these names only represent a portion of this previously undocumented history. There are hundreds of actors who performed in various Italian genres and film movements, all of which left a mark on the collective memory of Italian audiences. Thus the alternative aim is for “BlaxploItalian” to serve as a call-to-action, with the intention of challenging worldwide mainstream filmmakers and audiences into calling for an enhanced practicing of ethnic and racial diversity in casting for important roles within the international film/media industries. “BlaxploItalian” is produced Kalon Jackson (Blue Rose Films), Elliott "Lee" Cowart and Curtis Caesar John.

Watch the trailer for the film below:

by Curtis Caesar John on April 20 2017

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