Marilena Delli Umuhoza was born outside Rome to an Italian father and Rwandan mother. She earned her Master Degree in International Communication, writing the first thesis in Italy on African Cinema.
In 2007 she moved to Los Angeles to study documentary film-making at UCLA (University of California), during which time she also took theater classes at TOA (Hollywood), worked as a voice-over actor for motion pictures at Cinemagnetic West Studios, and taught Italian language at the Italian Institute of Culture.
In 2009 she moved to Paris and visited Rwanda for the first time. She filmed Rwanda' Mama, a documentary following her mother's return to her homeland after 30 years away. The documentary was was officially selected at the Festival of Cinema in South Africa. She also worked on Kigali Y'zabu (Kigali of Gold) by roots band, The Good Ones from Rwanda.
In 2010, she worked as an interpreter and videographer on Tassili by Touareg band Tinariwen, recorded in the southeast Algerian Sahara desert. The record went on to win a Grammy for Best World Music Record in 2011.
In 2011 she worked on Jovanotti's first U.S. record Italia 1988-2012 and shot his "New York for Life" video plus directed a mini-documentary about the making of the album, which was screened at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.
In Malawi, she worked on He is #1, the first record by acclaimed band Malawi Mouse Boys.
In 2012 she explored the youngest state in the world, South Sudan, and worked on the record Trance Percussion Masters of South Sudan by the group Wayo from Zande people. She also worked on the Acholi Machon record Lamwong (Freedom Fighters) and General Paolino & Mama Celina’s South Sudan Street Survivors.
That same year she visited Kenya, where she worked with the West Bridge Band on the record Kibera Esbera.
In 2013, she worked on the Malawi Mouse Boys' new record Dirt is Good and started a new project, I Have No Everything Here, in the Maximum Security Prison of Zomba. In 2016, the album earned the first Grammy nomination ever for the country of Malawi.
She flew to Big Sur and worked with Bob Forrest from band Thelonius Monster to do his first solo album ever.
In 2014, she worked on the Good Ones' second record, Rwanda is My Home, which marked the 20th anniversary from the genocide.
That same year she went to Palestine and worked with Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar and his group, DAM.
She traveled to Vietnam that summer to work on the photos and the music video for the Hanoi Masters, a collection of songs to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
At the end of 2014, she worked on Malawi Mouse Boys third album, Forever is 4 You.
In Angers she worked on the record Like a bird or spirit, not a face by Tuvan throat singer Sainkho Namtchylak, released in 2016 as a collaboration with members of Tinariwen.
In June 2015 she flew to Cambodia to work with artist Arn Chorn-Pond and blues legend Kong Nai.
In August she worked in Transylvania with indie band, Zmei3.
In January 2016 she published her first book on racism in Italy, Razzismo all’italiana- cronache di una spia mezzosangue, receiving positive reviews from the major Italian mass media.
She went back to Malawi to personally announce the Grammy nomination to the prisoners of Zomba Prison Project. The US television Show “60 Minutes” covered the project and their segment was nominated for 3 Emmys in 2017 and won one.
In June 2016 she worked on a new record on Ukerewe island by the Tanzania Albinism Collective.
In August 2017 the record Why did we stop growing tall? by Abatwa from Rwanda and Burundi was released.
After a maternity break, she worked on God is not a terrorist, the debut album by 75-year-old microtonal master, Ustad Saami from Pakistan, released early in 2019.
Later that year, Not a homeless person, just a person without a home, was also released— a record of the unheard voices and stories of the homeless community in Oakland.
In September, Rwanda, you should be loved by The Good Ones was released by Anti Records, followed by a US tour opening for Oscar and Grammy winning Irish singer-songwriter, Glen Hansard.
In February 2020 she recorded and photographed her sister-in-law, Jane, and the disabled community she belongs to in San Francisco. The resulting record Who are you calling slow? came out that fall.
In July she published Negretta: Baci Razzisti (Little Black Girl: Racist Kisses), a young adult novel featuring a Black Italian protagonist.