Documenting present-day history: an interview with filmmaker Adimu

by Minister of Information JR

mail-1, Documenting present-day history: an interview with filmmaker Adimu , Culture Currents Adimu Madyun is one of the L.A.-born, West Oakland-based homies that live in the Village Bottoms Cultural District, who is kind of like a well rounded media artist. The man is a filmmaker who has produced videos for a lot of the Bay Area’s political and backpacker hip hop scene, but he is best known for his music with the group Hairdoo.

Right now, Adimu is working on a new documentary called “Operation: Small Ax” about the POCC: Block Report Radio show and its role in organizing in the terrible but fine year of 2009 in the Bay Area in the eye of the storm of controversies like the murder of Oscar Grant, the Oakland Rebellions, the trials of the Oakland 100, the murder of Lovelle Mixon and four OPD and more. It also includes exclusive interviews with Emory Douglas of the Black Panther Party, Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. of the POCC, Umar Bin Hassan of the Last Poets, rappers Beeda Weeda, J. Stalin, Mahasen and Chela Simone and an exclusive Block Report Radio interview with Angela Davis that was used to promote Mumia’s new book.

Read Adimu in his own words …

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell the readers a little bit about how you got involved in filmmaking?

Adimu: I got involved in filmmaking while I was living in Africa. I started off recording everything I saw and eventually graduated to making music videos for an artist collective in South Africa I was part of called Guidance: Help Us Help You. My first documentary was “The Death of Tarzan.” Myself and Shaka Jamal formed a production company called Black Apes Project. We wanted to tell the story of Africa most people don’t get a chance to see. We didn’t focus on the plague, wars, poverty and petting zoos. We focused on the rural and urban culture, artistic expression and love.

The documentary got a lot of praise in Africa and that continued here in the states. The film was featured in the Pan African Film Festival, San Francisco Black Film Festival and the Maafa Film Festival, to name a few. It definitely let me know with harder work ethics and dedication, I could continue to creatively uplift myself, my family and community through film.

M.O.I. JR: Can you name some of the artists that you have made music videos for?

Adimu: I started off in South Africa with artists such as Sliq Angel, MXO and Phat Beat Regiment. Here in Oakland, working with Samm Styles and Shaka Jamal, we made videos for Flipside, Chris Marsol and Brwn Bflo. With Black Apes I have also made videos for Ras Attitude, Jah Warri, WordSlanger and Hairdoo. Working with OLU8 films we just finished a video for Ise Lyfe.

M.O.I. JR: I know that you also shoot documentary films. Can you talk about some of the topics of the documentaries that you have worked on or are working on? How do you pick your topics?

Adimu: Documentaries are my favorite. The emotion and feelings are authentic in documentaries. The documentaries I have done generally focus on cultural issues that are affecting my community. Some documentaries I have done are “Death of Tarzan,” “Ras in the Hood” and “Call the Village.” I’m currently working on a few different projects.

One in particular is “Operation Small Axe.” This film is about the victory of struggle and how Block Report Radio plays the role of small axe and goes about chopping down the wrongdoings of big trees like the police, the misinformative media institutes and the oppressive political practices that are used to silence the voice of the people.

I really don’t pick my topics; they usually find me. I say this because I don’t set out to do a documentary on a certain topic per se; I simply make myself attractive to good stories. I do this by constantly observing and dialoguing everything from the viewpoint of, “Is this a story my people need to know?” I keep a camera near at all times because as a documentary filmmaker, you never know when you will find yourself in the middle of a story. When people see you documenting, if they have a story they are more likely to approach you. I think that’s what makes our documentaries. We attract footage and stories that are authentic and creative.

M.O.I. JR: You recently shot a flick about a high priest. Why do you take that project up?

Adimu: This project was the brainchild of Shaka Jamal and myself. Working with the blessings of Ihen N’uri temple, we documented the visit of High Chief Priest Osemwegie Ebohon to the Bay Area from Benin City, Nigeria. High Priest Osemwegie Ebohon is a well traveled, controversial African traditional worshiper and native doctor.

Our main purpose was to give our audience a conscious North American African view into the world of Orisa. There is so much history into demonizing traditional African religious beliefs and practices, we believe it’s important for us to show the truth and beauty to combat the stereotypes that do nothing but separate people of the Diaspora from our roots.

Along with filming different ceremonies that took place, we also brought the chief to the hood. Working with Marcel Diallo and the good people in the Village Bottoms, the chief did an informative lecture and meet and greet at the Black Dot Café on Pine Street in the Bottoms. It gave my people in the neighborhood a chance to dialogue and meet a real high priest chief from Africa and answer a lot of questions about Orisa practices, cosmology and history.

M.O.I. JR: How do you think that the technology has changed the character of the filmmaking industry, now that everybody just about can afford to make a movie?

Adimu: Technological advancements have made it possible to not only make your own movie or video, but also market it to a large audience. I think the technology has made the character of the filmmaking industry more open and accessible. However, technology is not a substitute for creativity. We see that a lot; people have technology but no creativity. I believe technology is used best by a dedicated, creative student. With so much technology, if one takes the time to learn it, they then have the power to change the character of filmmaking because they can create and produce their own vision.

M.O.I. JR: If I wanted you to do a music video for a song that I had done, what would we talk about at our initial meeting? Can you walk me through the process?

Adimu: At our initial meeting, I like to listen to you and find out what vision you have for the video, creatively and financially. We then come to an agreement to work with each other and set a calendar. After that we manifest the vision for the video; this includes production and postproduction. When the end product is finished, we help in marketing of the video to ensure the product we just created together is viewed by as many people as possible.

M.O.I. JR: What advice would you give a youngsta that wants to get into indie filmmaking?

Adimu: Believe in yourself; become a successful student of film. Surround yourself with people that know more than you. Be aware you can learn a lot by volunteering. Always put your best foot forward. Filmmaking is a lot about building relationships. You want people to know you work smart and hard, learn to make right decisions quickly. Be proud of your creativity and keep your head up at the crossroads.

M.O.I. JR: How do people get up with you?

Adimu: or at (213) 272-6999.

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at and visit