FRED KUDJO KUWORNU
He is best known as the director of critically acclaimed documentaries such as Blaxploitalian 100 Years of Blackness in Italian Cinema, Inside Buffalo, and 18 Ius Soli. His documentaries deal with political and social themes, such as racism, interracial relations, diversity, Afro-Italians and Black diasporic identity in Italy and the African diaspora in the world. In 2003, he directs his first short film, Natale in Autogrill. The film became a finalist at the Festival dei Due Mondi of Spoleto as well. In 2008, he quit from television to pursue a career in filmmaking.In 2008, he started film career as a production assistant on the set of the film Miracle at St. Anna directed by Spike Lee. It is based on the Nazi massacre in St. Anna di Stazzema, Italy. After that experience, he made his own documentary, "Inside Buffalo" in 2010 about the African-American soldiers who helped liberate Italy from the Nazis. The documentary includes interviews with African-American Veterans and Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller, Derek Luke and writer James McBride. The film received critical acclaim and later won the award for Best Documentary at the Black International Cinema Berlin festival. Meanwhile, the film was highly praised by former presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Giorgio Napolitano.
In 2011, during a ceremony at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, honored Fred Kuwornu with a certificate from the U.S Congress in recognition of the work done to preserve the memory and the contributions of African-American soldiers during WW2.
Other prizes were granted from the US Department of Veteran Affairs, the Governor of Oklahoma Brad Henry, Frank Jackson the mayor of Cleveland and Michael Nutter mayor of Philadelphia, and United States senator Raphael Warnock that organized a special screening of Inside Buffalo at the historical church of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ebenezer Church in Atlanta in 2019.
Inside Buffalo was also presented, among others, at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, Texas Black Film Festival in Dallas, African Diaspora Film Festival in New York, Atlanta Black DocuFest, Mid-Atlantic Black Film Festival, Black Harvest Chicago Film and Series, Sidewalk Moving Pictures Film Festival.
In 2011, Fred Kuwornu becomes a civil right activist for the so-called "Second Generation Italians," children of immigrants born in Italy but who, because of the Italian Ius Sanguinis, are not allowed to become citizens. The film deals with multiculturalism in Italy and the immigrants born and raised in Italy but are not yet Italian citizens. The film later become one of the first documentaries for social change produced and distributed in Italy which later won the 2012 Ilaria Alpi prize. With the help of an independent and self-created platform, between 2012 and 2106 18 Ius Soli was shown in Italy more than 800 times, at events hosted by cultural associations, schools, universities, and towns, hence fostering the debate on citizenship for children of immigrants, which also involved Roberto Saviano (who praised 18 Ius Soli as a unique testimony). It was also shown abroad, especially in the US, inserting itself in the heated discussions about Dreamers and Immigration.
In 2013, Fred Kuwornu moves himself and his production company, Do the Right Films, to Brooklyn. Here, in 2016, he produces Blaxploitalian, another documentary for social change this time focused on media representation. In this work, Fred uncovers the hidden story of African, African-American and Caribbean actors in Italian cinema. It starts with the 1915 silent film Salambò, and continues with Neorealism and the 1970s cinema, to reach the contemporary age.
In 2016, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy Awards, invites Fred Kuwornu and the actor-activist Danny Glover to host an event on diversity in the film industry. That same year, at the Festa del Cinema di Roma, Fred launches the initiative "United Artists for Italy," which supports Black Italian actors and their struggle for more visibility. Between 2016 and 2017, Fred attends various international events on the film industry, such as in Brasil, al Encontro de Cinema Negro Zózimo Bulbul, in Ghana at The National Film and Television Institute, in Spain at the festival Cine Africano, as well as in South Africa, Tanzania, Netherlands, U.K., France, hence becoming an internationally renowned figure on diversity and inclusion. Blaxploitalian was presented at the following film festivals: San Francisco Black Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival Los Angeles, Festa del Cinema di Roma, Baltimore International Film Festival, Eko International Film Festival Lagos, Atlanta Docufest, Martinique Film Festival, Canada World International Film Festival, Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, New Voices in Black Cinema BAM, Zanzibar International Film Festival.
Since 2014, Fred Kuwornu has given about 250 lectures and presentations on Diversity in Contemporary Italian Culture and on Black Diaspora at numerous international universities, among which Oxford University, Yale, NYU, Columbia University, University of California, Berkeley University, University of Chicago, Princeton University, Brown University, Cornell University, Stanford University, and many more.
He was an invited guest speaker at conferences, such as: Black Portraiture[s] II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-staging Histories New York University - 2015 Conference in Florence, Italy 2016 ALA African Literature Association Annual Conference in Atlanta, USA 2017American Association for Italian Studies and the Canadian Society for Italian Studies Annual Conference at Ohio State University, USA 2017 Annual API (Association of Professional Italianist in South Africa) Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa 2018Afro/Black Paris – Future/Past- Dartmouth College.
He also teaches courses on production and digital filmmaking, on Black Diaspora in Contemporary Italy and Europe. He has taught for University of Toronto, University of Minnesota, James Madison University, Middlebury College and Colorado College. At Colorado College, in 2020, Fred Kuwornu and professor Amanda Minervini taught the first course entirely dedicated to Black Italian Cinema and Digital Performance. The course has been taught the following year at University of Minnesota.
In July 2021, Kuwornu, as a pioneer of Black Italian Studies launched the platform BlackItalia.info and Teaching Black Italy a refresher online course for professors which explores the contemporary presence of the African diaspora in Italy.
Kuwornu is a Diversity & Inclusion consultant for Netflix Italy and other media broadcasters in Italy. He had lectured as Guest Speajer at more than 200 Colleges in North America. His production has been awarded and granted by the New York Foundation for the Arts, Open Society, and Cineteca of Bologna. He is currently developing "We Were There” a feature documentary about the African presence during the Renaissance in Europe.