Il Moro (2021)


The “condemnation of memory” (or in it’s original Latin, “damnatio memoria”) is a term that describes the virtual erasure of a historical person within a few generations of their lifetime, so you may be excused if you didn’t realize that Renaissance Italy had a powerful Black ruler in the 16th century, as history got pretty busy trying to blank him out after his death in 1537. Alessandro de’ Medici, who ruled as Duke of Florence between 1532 and 1537, was the son of an enslaved woman and either Lorenzo de’ Medici or Pope Clement VII (there’s some debate amongst scholars). Raised in the center of the powerful de’ Medici family, Alessandro was recognized as Lorenzo’s only surviving, if illegitimate, male heir (his half-sister was Catherine de’ Medici, future Queen of France).

Posthumous portrait of Alessandro de’ Medici by Bronzino, c.1565-1569.

I was especially excited to find out recently that a short film, Il Moro (2021), is taking the Duke out of the shadows of anonymity and attempting to put him back in his rightful place in history as one of the powerful Medici dukes. Directed by Daphne Di Cinto (who, coincidentally, played the mother of the Duke of Hastings in Bridgerton), Il Moro has been making the indie film circuit over the last few months.

“I’ll be honest, I found out about him in one of those articles titled ‘Ten people in history you didn’t know were black.’ And I was stunned. I had never learned about his background and people didn’t seem to be familiar with it either. I strongly felt that his story deserved attention as much as other Afropeans deserve representation in our history.

“I find it so funny that after fictionally giving birth to the most well known black duke around, I would in a way mother this other black duke through telling his story.” — Daphne Di Cinto, Story of forgotten black Medici ruler is told in new short film.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of promotional images of the film to be found, other than the production’s gorgeous Instagram account. The costume designer is Maddalena Oriani, and this is her first film credit according to IMDB. The budget is precariously tight (according to Di Cinto, she simply couldn’t afford to make a bigger role for Alessandro’s mother in the film) and there is an Indiegogo fundraiser seeking to raise money for the film. You can also check out the Italian language trailer on the Indiegogo site — it’s stunningly elegant in its economy.

Alberto Malanchino plays the Duke of Florence, Alessandro de’Medici. Via @ilmorofilm.


Ippolito de’Medici, played by Andrea Melis, was thought to be the favorite for the dukedom of Florence, but he is passed over by the Pope in favor of Alessandro. Via @ilmorofilm.


Alessandro’s enslaved mother, Simonetta da Collevecchio, played by Balkissa Maiga. Via @ilmorofilm.


Paolo Sassanelli plays Pope Clement VII, who was theorized to be Alessandro’s true father. He ultimately chooses Alessandro to lead Florence over his cousin, Ippolito, a decision that has wide-ranging affects on the duchy. Via @ilmorofilm.


Share your thoughts in the comments!

11 Responses

  1. Fran in NYC

    The Metropolitan Museum has an exhibit right now, The Medici: Portraits and Power, 1521-1570 and they do talk about Alessandro. The last day for this show is 10/11.

    • Saraquill

      I was there. I was hoping to see the portrait of Guilia, Alessandro’s daughter and her grandmother, but it wasn’t there. It was still fun to see Alessandro and other Black coded portraits.

      Also, THE PISA DRESS WAS THERE! My mind was blown.

  2. hsc

    I’d like to see someone (hello, Netflix?) throw some more money into this and expand it into a feature.

    That said, it should be noted that there is some scholarly debate as to whether Alessandro’s mother was actually a servant of African descent, or if this was a false rumor spread by his enemies to discredit him.

    Ludovico Sforza was also known as “Ludovico il Moro” for his dark hair and complexion, but he wasn’t conjectured to have been of African descent. The term “moro” can actually be used like “brunet(te)” in describing appearance.

  3. Lily Lotus Rose

    HELL YES!!!! I LOVED the trailer. Oh, that dig about “People with hair like you…” so spot on. I can’t wait to see this!! P.S. I NEED Piero Pelu to do the soundtrack for this movie. THANK YOU for letting us know about this!

  4. M.E. Lawrence

    Wo–definitely one to see. I like the touch of Simonetta’s wearing a man’s ring around her neck: presumably given her by Clement.

  5. Roxana

    Being biracial doesn’t seem to have hurt Alessandro’s career prospects. His illegitimacy may have been a bigger issue at the time. And his important paternal lineage trumped both.