I built an interest in movies because of my favourite actors Yul Edochie and Ken Eric

One among the most talented writers and movie directors in The Gambia whose name rings a bell, and attracted many artists, and producers in The Gambia film industry is Pa Modou Cham AKA Gambian Odumu. This young admirable soft spoken man is multitalented. With Yunus S Saliu, He has talked about his professions and how he joined the movie industry. Gambian Odumu as popularly called by many has disclosed that he built interest in movies because of his favourite actors – Yul Edochie and Ken Eric, Iconic Nigerian filmmakers, as well his other works.

Pa Modou Cham AKA Gambian Odumu

Can you introduce yourself to your fans and readers?

I am Pa Modou Cham popularly called Gambian Odumu, a young Gambian Filmmaker, Entrepreneur, and Journalist.

How did you come about the name Gambian Odumu?

Gambian Odumu is a name given to me by my old friends in Banjul. There was a time when Banjullian boys speak ‘Patuwa’, a language believed to emanate from street boys. So instead of calling me Modou, they called me Odumu. It was trending and almost everyone keeps calling me that, then I decided to use it as my acting name.

Tell us about your profession

I’m one of the senior Gambian journalists with over eight years of experience in the field of Journalism. I worked with The Monitor Newspaper as a senior reporter, Sen FM Radio as an English News presenter. Presently, I’m a senior reporter with The Point Newspaper and the Editor-in-Chief of CTV Africa. I attended Insight Training Centre where I acquired a certificate and Diploma in Journalism and Investigative Journalism at the University of The Gambia, and an advanced diploma in Digital Media at Smart Professional College.

More also, among other short courses and training, I am a holder of numerous certificates ranging from Business and Financial Reporting, Dissemination, Disaster Risk Reduction, Leadership, Security Sector Reform, Gender, and more. More to that, I am a writer, producer, and the Director of Gamstars Movie Production and has studied Filmmaking and Directing at Afrigod Film School and Weltfilme.

Is it journalism before movies or movies before journalism?

I have been in the film industry before becoming a journalist. I started screen acting in 2010 while started journalism in 2014.

So, let us know how you joined the movie industry

I started stage performance when I was in junior school and I continued with it during my high school days. I represented Banjul City Council (BCC) in several regional stage performance competitions for more than a decade. Then I decided to join a local theatre troop called ‘Boka Jeff’, and that was the time I started featuring in films. Because I was a young writer by then, the group decided to select me as their scriptwriter and as well co-director. I started with the group from 2010 to 2012 and we produced about five films. 

In 2012, I realized that the local drama was only popular within the Senegambia region, so I decided to form a movie production house named Gamstars Movie Production. At a time, we didn’t have many people in the film industry and it was few that were willing to join because of the bad mindset they had toward actors.

Means you start straight with stage performance, so what was your first movie or performance that you feature?

I started stage performance for a while before joining the film industry. I first feature in a local drama titled ‘Dom Baye’.

As a movie director, what was your first movie production then?

The first movie I produced and directed was ‘The Great Big Tree Kingdom’, an African movie that showcases the culture, norms, and traditions of Africans, especially the Gambia.

To date, how many films have you directed and how many have you produced for yourself?

I have directed three and co-directed five films, both with Boka Jeff and Gamstars Movie Production. I produced three films for my production house.

Who are/is the person that inspired you to act?

I built an interest in movies because of my favourite actors Yul Edochie and Ken Eric, iconic Nigerian filmmakers. I used to watch their movies on CDs during my school days. I used to take some of my school fares just to buy their movies from vendors to develop my acting career. When I was in Nigeria recently, I tried to meet them but to no avail. 

In the Gambia movie industry, do you think women are having edge over men?

Women are given the opportunity but some are not taking the opportunity and we have few people who have a passion for the game. Beautiful characters are in town but they don’t want to use acting as a career. Some think negatively and are afraid to show up their face or body. I think religion and traditional beliefs are contributing to this compared to others in neighbouring countries.

Let’s talk about the combination of the profession, how are you managing acting and journalism together so that they do not disturb each other?

Well, filmmaking and journalism are somehow related because both have the goal to educate, inform and entertain their audiences. I work from Sunday to Friday as Journalist but conduct my movie rehearsals on Saturdays. This is delaying my production but notwithstanding I am managing to have an impact in the end. I sometimes have to be absent from my journalism engagements just to deliver on my production.

Or do you think that the Gambia movie industry is not blossoming enough?

The industry is progressing enough it is just that we are not getting the right support from the government and individual businessmen and companies. Films are a combination of work and a director cannot be producing and doing all expenses. It’s quite frustrating but because of passion, we are managing the current situation to move ahead. 

How do you think the movie productions in The Gambia can be improved upon?

This should be the primary objective of the government to step in and support. The film industry is employing many young people; therefore supporting the industry is creating job opportunities for the young people. The Gambia should start building cinema halls and cultural Centres where young people can go and showcase their talents, and as well empower the filmmakers by organizing a national film premiering where movie lovers and residents of The Gambia will come and watch Gambian plays. The filmmakers have the intention but the finance is not there for one to embark on such high funding activities. There should be film schools like in other countries because this will build the capacity of young actors to prepare them enough to compete in the international arena. 

Tell us about your last movie and how is the response

My last movie is ‘Family Dispute’, it premiered on March 24 2022, but I didn’t get the support I expected from the Gambian people, despite touring all the television stations in the country, being featured by almost all radio stations, and as well featured in all the newspapers. Now that the film is on sale but still few people bought it. So it’s not motivating but I have to keep pushing because of the next generation of actors coming before me. 

What’s the next thing we should be expecting from you?

I am currently working on another movie titled ‘Bad Companion’. It’s a short film with few characters because I am considering the cost. Due to the unavailability of resources, we, therefore, cannot produce movies as expected or be compared with other developing countries.


Yunus S Saliu

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