Wednesday, May 26, 7-10 p.m., RDAC BX, 478 Austin Place, off 149th and Bruckner, Bronx, N.Y., the featured film at Rebel Diaz’ 2nd Annual RDAC BX Film Festival
Wednesday, May 26, 3-5 p.m., UC Santa Cruz, Stevenson Center Room 175, Santa Cruz
Wednesday, May 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Barrios Unidos, 1817 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz
Friday, May 28, 6-9 p.m., Sam Pannell Community Center, 2450 Meadview Road, Sacramento
Saturday, June 5, 7-10 p.m., Phoenix Project, 406 S. Haskell Ave., Dallas
Wednesday, June 23, 7 p.m., La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley
by Nikki Leeds
“Operation Small Axe,” a controversial new documentary by director Adimu Madyun starring Block Report Radio producer and SF Bay View associate editor Minister of Information JR, raises disturbing questions about what they call police terrorism in Oakland. Within the last three years there has been a lot of unrest in the once chocolate city of Oakland between the Black community, their supporters and the Oakland Police Department. The police killing of 20-year-old unarmed Gary King, the police shooting of unarmed 15-year-old Laronte Studdesville, the police murder of Oscar Grant, Lovelle Mixon and Parnell Smith are just a few of the battles that have polarized the situation. The film itself documents the cases of Oscar Grant, Lovelle Mixon and Minister of Information JR, as well as the response from various residents of Oakland across ethnic and class lines.
“Operation Small Axe” encapsulates the rage and pain that Oakland’s Black residents feel towards the police, who in the documentary they refer to as “an occupying army much like in a war torn country.” In one of the more striking scenes in the movie, a Black grandmother says, “He went out like a souljah; his momma didn’t raise no punk,” when she opined about Lovelle Mixon killing four officers then being killed himself on March 21, 2009.
We caught up with Adimu Madyun of 393 Films, the director, to discuss his collaboration with Block Report Radio’s Minister of Information JR, which turned into the controversial award-winning documentary.
Nikki Leeds: Can you tell us about your film, “Operation Small Axe”? What is it about?
Adimu Madyun: “Operation Small Axe” is a documentary like no other. “Operation Small Axe” is a raw and unflinching grassroots journalist’s documentation of life and death under “police terrorism” in Oakland. “Operation Small Axe” documents the diverse people of Oakland that came together to fight police terrorism and demand justice not just for Oscar Grant but all victims of police terrorism.
Through the stories of Oscar Grant, Lovelle Mixon and the trial of JR Valrey, “Operation Small Axe” documents the bitter but little known war waged daily on the streets against people of color by the police, city government and mainstream media. In bold parallels, the film draws the struggles against organized oppression in Compton, Palestine and South Africa to examination.
“Operation Small Axe” is a raw and unflinching grassroots journalist’s documentation of life and death under “police terrorism” in Oakland.
We show how Cointelpro is still alive and well in Oakland. The documentary is not “politically correct.” It doesn’t follow the traditional documentary format. It allows the viewer to really see and witness the story the media didn’t tell, wouldn’t tell and couldn’t tell. “Operation Small Axe” gives voice to the voiceless.
Nikki: How did you hook up with Minister of Information JR to do this film? Why did you pick the Block Report to be the subject of the film?
Adimu: JR was interviewing my band Hairdoo on the radio one night. After the interview, I approached him about doing a documentary about Block Report Radio. At the time we had no idea the tragic events of 2009 would take place. The documentary took on a life of its own. I picked Block Report because I felt the Block Report had its hand on the pulse of the people and one of the only outlets that really had a good overstanding of the terrorism that has been going on in the community.
Nikki: What has the response been to this documentary?
Adimu: It’s been amazing. I want to thank all the people who came together to make and support this film. People who see the film are literally blown away with anger, laughter, fear, joy and pain. Anybody that sees the film is definitely transformed. It really is a startling must-see film.
The Oscar Grant family called me up to thank me for the film. I get emails from around the world from people who have seen the film and are motivated by the film. The wonderful response from the people is my motivation to keep fighting for the film to be seen.
Nikki: Why do you think some of the film festivals are afraid of this film?
Adimu: Because the film is not “politically correct.” I refused to censor the people. I let the world hear first hand what is going on. I let the world witness the truth. Many organizations are afraid of the political backlash that can come by showing this film. They praise the film in private conversations but get scared of what the response might be from different political organizations that control funding and don’t want this film shown.
It’s been a lot of hard work to get this film on the big screen. I had the World Premiere on March 21, 2010, in New Orleans at the Patois International Human Rights Film Festival. Not only did the film win the festival’s Rise Up Award for best film that motivated people into action, but it allowed the people of New Orleans to see first hand that they were not alone in the grave injustices that are being carried out against people of color in America. I believe “Operation Small Axe” is one of the most feared films in the world.
It’s been a lot of hard work to get this film on the big screen. Many organizations are afraid of the political backlash that can come by showing this film. I believe “Operation Small Axe” is one of the most feared films in the world.
Nikki: What do you think affected people the most about the flick?
Adimu: The raw undeniable truth of the film. It tells a story that’s not being told. People leave feeling alive when they see the film. The brutal police murders that are shown in the film, the drive and motivation of the people of Oakland who organized against all odds to chop down the big trees of terrorism and oppression leave audiences stunned. I don’t feel it’s any way you can watch this film and not be affected.
To learn more about “Operations Small Axe” and to book screenings and interviews, email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.blockreportradio.com.