Skip to the main content
This is a Berkman Klein alum page. The information below may be out of date.

Leonard Cortana is a P.hD Candidate at the Cinema Studies Department at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and a Research Fellow at the NYU Africa House.

His research focuses on the transnational circulation of narratives about racial justice and activist movements between Brazil, South Africa, France and the US with a special emphasis on the memorialization of political assassinations, the spread of the legacy of assassinated anti-racist activists and the online protection of frontline activists. He also investigates the expansion of digital film festivals, the development of AI-based deepfake technology, the distribution of visual media advocating for a safe general artificial intelligence. He has written several articles for the Francophone Journal Jeune Afrique.

Prior to NYU, he conducted several artistic and educational projects with non-profits and UN agencies that engage with youths in Chile, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Australia, France and Bulgaria. He became a Trainer for European Commission Youth Program projects and designed methodologies in theatre and storytelling for social inclusion for youth workers. In 2012, Cortana founded the collective Inform’ART France, which brought together youth workers and artists. Among their projects, the collective drew upon the Human Library methodology to create a network of practitioners all over France and took part in the youth delegation of the Festival Against Racism in Brussels and Montreal.

Cortana is also a documentary filmmaker. His last documentary Marielle's Legacy Will not Die follows activist movements spreading the intersectional legacy of Afro-Brazilian activist and politician Marielle Franco in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As his film circulates transnationally, he creates networks of advocacy with other anti-racist activists.

Cortana earned the EU Commission NOHA Masters in Humanitarian Assistance and holds a double-degree in Comparative Politics and Hispanic Literatures and Cultures at Sciences-Po Aix en Provence. He also received a BA in Cinema and Aesthetics from Panthéon Sorbonne University. He was a dissertation Fellow at the UCSB Black Studies Department, NYU Paris and Madrid.


United Nations OHCHR

Stories on racial justice give power of memory to the slain

BKC affiliate Leonard Cortana was profiled by United Nations Human Rights for his work in human rights.

Mar 10, 2023
Nelson Mandela Foundation News

Teaching the legacy of Dulcie September and other assassinated anti-racist figures of resistance as poetry for collective liberation

"They erased Dulcie September, who remained a name in schools, streets, and cultural centers but nothing about her intellectual production and incredible life story as an anti…

Feb 22, 2023
Misinformation Review

Disinformation creep: ADOS and the strategic weaponization of breaking news

Mutale Nkonde and colleagues publish in HKS Misinformation Review

Jan 18, 2021
Jeune Afrique

Leonard Cortana on Afro Diasporic film festivals

Leonard Cortana writes about global development of Afro Diasporic film festivals for Jeune Afrique

Sep 17, 2020
Feminism in India

Film Review – Marielle’s Legacy Will Not Die

A review of Leonard Cortana’s documentary “Marielle’s Legacy Will Not Die”

Jul 30, 2020

‘Marielle’s legacy will not die’

A review of Leonard Cortana’s short documentary

Jul 15, 2020

Living on in death

A review of Leonard Cortana’s short documentary 'Marielle’s Legacy Will Not Die'

Jul 15, 2020
News 18

'Another Marielle Franco Shouldn't Die': A Film Memorializing Slain Brazilian LGBT Activist

Documentary by Leonard Cortana screened at KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival

Jul 8, 2020
Jeune Afrique

Her name was Marielle Franco…

Two years after the assassination of Marielle Franco, BKC fellow and filmmaker Leonard Cortana reflects on the subject of his documentary

Apr 7, 2020
Jeune Afrique

« Les Misérables », affaire classée ?

Leonard Cortana on why France’s entry for the Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards, Les Misérables, should be inscribed in the history of…

Feb 19, 2020
Jeune Afrique

Le « blackface », une hypocrisie française

Leonard Cortana on the inadequate response of the French media to racist incidents

Jan 31, 2020
Left Voice

“Marielle’s Legacy Will Not Die”

An interview with the documentary filmmaker and BKC fellow Leonard Cortana

Jan 7, 2020