|Born||March 5, 1984|
|Occupation||Documentary filmmaker, visual anthropologist|
|Known for||Making documentaries about people who don't usually have a voice, such as women and people of color|
|Notable work||"Fidel," "Lessons From the Tiger, Freedom Lover Film non-profit company|
Ife Olatunji (born March 5, 1984) is an African American visual anthropologist, documentary filmmaker, and film critic. She makes films that document the daily lives of people of color, especially women, using cinéma vérité. Ife is known for creating a space where stories are told for the people, by the people. Her projects tend to include the themes of racism, gender, ethnicity, identity construction, and about the impact of politics on everyday life.
Ife is most well known for her short documentary films Lessons From the Tiger (2010) and Fidel (2006), for which she won the award for Best Experimental Documentary at the 2006 New York International Film Festival. She is also CEO of Freedom Lover Films, a non-profit professional documentary film and photography company that she started in 2006. Ife is currently a production coordinator at SDI Media, where she manages distribution for films and TV shows.
Born in Los Angeles, CA to Iverson White, American filmmaker, and Una Van Duvall, jazz musician and actress, Ife Olatunji was surrounded by art and activism. Both of her parents were also Black Nationalists whose work centered around civil rights and criminal justice. Her father became a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee while she studied art, dancing, photography, writing and painting as a child. At 13, she attended Culver Girls Academy, a private militant boarding school in Culver, Indiana, and decided to further pursue the arts at college.
She attended Syracuse University, where a professor convinced her to study visual anthropology, and she pursued minors in areas of visual arts. She had opportunities to practice narrative filming, and experiment with 35mm black and white and color film. LaToya Ruby Frazier was her photography TA and helped her hone her photography skills during this time, someone she cites as an inspiration and helpful mentor.  She received her BA in Anthropology, with minors in photography and African American history from Syracuse. She later completed her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Manchester, UK, where she made Lessons From the Tiger as her thesis film.
Before Ife graduated from Syracuse University, she started Freedom Lover Films in 2006. Freedom Lover Films is a non-profit company that focuses on independent documentaries and photography on those who are voiceless and often ignored, all while implementing political themes into the films. Her films all have political overtones in them and often confronts racism and examines how the cultural construct of the present fights with how someone internalizes who they are.
In 2014, she became a Diverse Voices in Documentary fellow of Kartemquin Films, where she practiced her narrative storytelling and editing skills. She produced a film about women and daughters' everyday lives living in Chicago, as an independent producer.
In 2015, Ife was selected as a featured filmmaker for Chicago Artist Month. She founded Collective Voices Film Festival, an ethnographic film festival to "engage diverse audiences in academia and cinema," all while securing venues and raising awareness for the films chosen to be showcased. Films from the film festival were screened at other prestigious film festivals such as Sundance and Cannes. Collected Voices, Chicago's Ethnographic Film Fest, which focuses on stories exploring and intersecting themes of race, sexuality, and gender in Chicago society. "Explored through short and feature length films from Chicago based artists, these stories capture the voices of individuals and communities."
In 2016, she worked as a production coordinator for Kindling Group Films, where she "organized logistics for production" for a number of documentaries for the company, including a PBS web series titled "Veterans Coming Home". She also once again managed documentary film festivals and made sure of their distribution to the public.
Fidel is a 50 minute experimental documentary about a hip hop artist in Wisconsin that uses his music to create social activism and Ife's first film. Ife followed Fidel for over two months in 2006 in order to film him all over town while interviewing him about music and the process behind it. For her film, Ife won Best Experimental Documentary at the New York International Film Festival.
Lessons From the Tiger is Ife's graduate thesis film from the University of Manchester about young Indian girls facing gender constructs and the validity of womenhood. It premiered at the Athens Ethnographic Film Fest in 2011 and was later shown in different countries and locations worldwide to increase awareness for girls education.
In 2016, Ife worked on Brooks People which was a film about Gwendloyn Brooks, directed by Shahari Moore, a prominent Chicago film director. Ife was an assistant camera and primary editor for the film. The film blends traditional expository documentary with short moments of vérité. They utilized archival footage, voiceover, and narrative storytelling. The film was screened at the Black Harvest Film Fest in Chicago, and was nominated for best short documentary at the 2018 Pan African Film Fest in Los Angeles.
|2004||Hip Hop and the 2004 Election||Director|
|2006||Fidel||Director||Winner, Best Experimental Documentary Short, New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, 2006|
|2007||The War Drum||Director||Music video|
|2008||Rise up Wisconsin||Director||Web series|
|2010||The Funeral||Production Assistant||Fiction|
|2010||Lessons From the Tiger||Director||Premiered Athen Ethnographic Film Fest, 2011|
|2017||Brooks People||Editor||Black Harvest Film Fest, Pan African Film Fest|
|2017||Born in the Struggle||Assistant Editor||Check|
|2017||An Antramentous Mind||Actress||Fiction, Black Harvest Film Fest, Chicago International Film Fest|
|2018||My Name Here||Editor|
|2018||Childhood in South Shore||Director||Work in progress|
- De Paz, Daniela, Martinez, Kevin. “Interview with Ife Olatunji.” 6 June 2018.
- Says, Seven Gunn. “Filmmaker Ife Olatunji: Collective Voices Film Director.” ChicagoNow, Chicago Tribune, 29 Oct. 2016.
- Olatunji, Ife. “Ife Olatunji Biography.” IMDb, IMDb.com.
- Tunji, Iola. “Freedom Lover Films.” Radical Compliance : Freedom Lover FIlms, Chicago Arts Partnership in Education, 9 Sept. 2014.
- Olatunji, Ife. “Ife Olatunji.” LinkedIn, LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/ife-olatunji-28b8866.
1. De Paz, Daniela, Martinez, Kevin. “Interview with Ife Olatunji.” 6 June 2018.
2. Says, Seven Gunn. “Filmmaker Ife Olatunji: Collective Voices Film Director.” ChicagoNow, Chicago Tribune, 29 Oct. 2016.
3. Olatunji, Ife. “Ife Olatunji Biography.” IMDb, IMDb.com.
4. Tunji, Iola. “Freedom Lover Films.” Radical Compliance : Freedom Lover FIlms, Chicago Arts Partnership in Education, 9 Sept. 2014.
5. Olatunji, Ife. “Ife Olatunji.” LinkedIn, LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/ife-olatunji-28b8866.