Fred “Kudjo” Kuwornu: A filmmaker, Activist, Producer & Educator

Shades of Noir interviews film maker Fred Kuwornu, he will be speaking at A Diversity Matter event on Monday 18th April. BOOK HERE

Fred “Kudjo” Kuwornu is a filmmaker- activist-producer-educator born and raised in Italy and based in Brooklyn. His mother is an Italian Jew, and his father a Ghanaian surgeon who lived in Italy since the early 60’s. Fred Kuwornu holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Mass Media, from the University of Bologna.  As a teenager, he started his career as a DJ and Producer. Later, he moved to Rome where he began working as a TV show writer for RAI public television. Check out his website

What does Diversity mean to you?

Diversity to me means Unique. And I think in the future when we have reached many steps towards better diversity at the end we will discover that diversity simply means reflecting the individuality to be unique in the world. Every human is different, even twins of the same family are unique, and for this reason a contemporary and modern society should try to promote a much more developed idea of diversity.

How has your Italian and Ghanaian heritage influenced your work as a film maker and activist?

At the moment my identity is very important for me, I’m trying to discover how it can also give me a view as an African but not just a black European, but also as an African-American as I live in the US now. Working and thinking about Ghana as an a culture that transfers in my work is very important to my work.

Italy is facing even more difficulties in regards of immigration policies than the UK and some of your work address these issues. What advice would you give to young film makers who would like to express their experiences of immigration through their art?

I think to create work that expresses experiences or tells stories of migration , they also have to be focused on changing views and working much more focused on the stories of migrations themselves. Immigration also needs to be stories of individuals migrants, not just about population issues. They need to understand migration is not just concerning lower class people but also middle-class people who want to live in a better place.

As a film maker, do you have any comments to make about the Oscar’s controversy and the #OscarsSoWhite boycotting?

The Oscar’s controversy was a great moment which might have been misunderstood. Some people saw it as black actors against white actors which is not the story. It was about how we each represent the american society in this moment and how that is not represented in the film industry. Because the american society in the last 25 years has changed a lot. It has not just changed based on one ethnic group, but if you think about how many Latinos are American citizens (more than 12%) and they have under 5% representation, it is visible that it is not just the problem of black and white, but it is a real problem concerning every ethnicity in the American society. The problem is much more behind the scene, for example every 100 top films include only 3 women directors. There are not many disabled actors and only a few LGBT+ actors are represented in the industry. The movement #OscarsSoWhite basically wants to start a conversation about the White World, not simply white folk. It wants to say that the whole mainstream media is not representing the actual society.

What are your opinions on the treatment of diversity in the media?

In this moment diversity in the media is treated with very stereotypical roles or under-represented. For example with the British agents who do not accept actors of migrant background even if they have been born and raised in UK, it is the same in France as well. But diversity is also a problem in parts of Africa, for example in Egypt where dark skinned Egyptians are very under-represented on TV. African-Mexicans also suffer from under representation on Mexican TV. Diversity is not just a problem in the western world but it is a global issue that we need to fix.  

Why is it important to have conversations about race?

It is important to have conversations about race and also gender, especially in a society which conflicts the possibility to have these conversation. Bringing up these conversations will lead to finding ways of fixing these conflicts and creating a much more inclusive society.

How does your activism inform your creative work?

My activism is very important to my creative work, most of the time I am trying to watch what is happening around me, and I am trying to use documentary to tell stories. My background of political science and news writing for TV is very helpful in documentary for me.

What would be your ideal image of diversity in the movie industry?

My Ideal Image of diversity would be an image which throughout shows different people in different situations as a way to create diversity not only on screen but also off screen. Not only as the final image concerning actors but also at a beginning of the process roles of writers, producers and executives should be based on diversity.  Diversity for me is a conversation about skin color as well as gender, age, sexual orientation and many more.  


Image credit: Kai Lutterodt