Fascinating Doc "Blaxploitalian" Surveys the History of Blackness In Italian Cinema

May 03, 2017 79

BY: SERENA DONADONI

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.

The popularity of African-American performers in Italian genre films, such as Harold Bradley in sword-and-sandal movies or the 1980s low-budget action fare starring blaxploitation icon Fred Williamson, is covered, as is the impact of Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna (2008), about the segregated Buffalo Soldiers who served in Italy during World War II. Lee hired and inspired black Italian actors, including Kuwornu, whose first documentary focused on those African-American troops.

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SOURCE: http://www.villagevoice.com

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