Food, Days Out and Travel stories from Brighton, London and the Rest of the World


Lights, Camera Jemuru – Adventures of Film-Maker Bob Maddams in Ethiopia

In the last week Bob Maddams, the accomplished film maker and travel writer has had a lot to celebrate. Gem tv the Ethiopian film school, which he became involved in over ten years ago, empowering under-privileged kids to become independent film makers has received the Special Award at the One World Media Awards 2012. Working as a volunteer for this charity led Maddams to travel extensively throughout Ethiopia, experiencing life few outsiders ever see. Now based in Brighton Maddams has spent two years writing the story of his adventures about teaching at a back-street community film school, in Addis Ababa. His ebook Lights, Camera Jemuru, was also published this week through Apostrophe Books and costs £3.29.

Gem tv, filming in Ethiopia

When in 2000 Maddams was initially approached to volunteer on a three month project in Ethiopia he did not imagine it would lead to a ten year involvement with Gem tv. ‘Life puts opportunities in front of you for a reason and you have to go and do it, I had never been to Africa before, and then Ethiopia came along. Live Aid had defined my image of Ethiopia, I’d watched it live with 400 million other people across the world and what I discovered in Ethiopia was very very different and far more positive than I had expected.’

‘The Ethiopian people are amazingly cultured, amazingly resourceful, they have to cope with problems we can’t even imagine, they triumph over them on a daily basis. Ethiopia itself is geographically a very spectacular country with a biblical history that goes back to the Queen of Sheba. It’s a fascinating country, very spiritual and to a certain extent we’ve lost those traditions in the west.’

‘The Gem tv film makers themselves were teenagers written off by society, poorly educated, some of them living on the street and when Gem tv started a lot of people said, this is never going to work ,they will never be able to become film makers and master technology and of course they did triumph, they did achieve it. It’s like Britain’s Got Talent times a hundred what they have achieved and I think it shows what talent there is throughout the developing world when they are given training resources and encouragement they can achieve remarkable things. If the developing world is going to have any future at all it is going to have to come from the development of the children.’

Gem tv, Ethiopia

‘I travelled quite widely, the filming took me to many remote places including the source of the Nile, Medieval churches in a place called Gondar as well as a small town in the north called Lalibela where there are eleven churches carved out of the mountain side, UNESCO calls them the unofficial eighth wonder of the world. There are some amazing sights to see. As a result of filming I ended up in very remote communities well off the beaten track, like refugee communities on the Sudan border, living with them to make a film about them. I would be living in completely alternative ways, literally I was the only westerner for hundreds and hundreds of miles in what are still some of the remotest parts of Africa.’

Lalibela, Ethiopia

‘What I found is that experiences like that turn out to be a psychological gymnasium, I don’t think it gives you any qualities you don’t already possess, I think it gives a thorough work out of the qualities you have and develops them further, qualities like patience, sense of humour and tolerance. What was interesting to me coming from a communications background and going out to Ethiopia was that a lot of the cultural things I took for granted in the west did not apply in Ethiopia, for instance when I was working on HIV and I’d be talking to Ethiopians and say, we’ve got to take HIV very seriously, if you don’t and you get it you could be dead within ten years. They would laugh at me because that’s nothing to them. They would come back with, I could be dead in two years with TB, malaria or conscripted into the army or any host of things we just don’t consider as life threatening here in the UK. Everything I’d learnt or was going to use in these communications projects I had to completely rethink because the culture out there is completely different.’

As well as receiving the Special Award at the One World Media Awards this year, Gem TV’s films have won awards at the Addis Ababa Film Festival and have been shown at film festivals in Berlin, New York and the UK.

Standing alongside nominees including the BBC, ITN and other leading international media organizations, Gem TV Film Director, Adanech Admassu, received the award from Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow saying that she hoped it would raise the profile of Gem TV’s work in Ethiopia where they have made films for Unicef, UNDP, Oxfam, Water Aid and Womankind amongst others.

Adanech Admassu

These films have addressed girls’ education, health and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and many other developing world issues.

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