Diji Aderogba (dijiaderoGBA) is one of the fastest rising filmmakers. For now, Diji Aderogba makes short films and documentaries. His documentary, “Hidden Euphoria (life in Makoko)” recently got two award nominations at Lake International Pan-African Film Festival in Nairobi, Kenya. Diji Aderogba cites Tunde Kelani and Kunle Afolayan as his biggest influence. He added that reading books from Chinua Achebe, Femi Osofisan and Wole Soyinka helped to set him on the path to filmmaking. “To Be A Child Again“, “Victim“, “Hakuna Matata” and “Hidden Euphoria” are some of his works.
Diji Aderogba witnessed a lot of stage performances as a child and fell in love with filmmaking. In this exclusive interview with Diji Aderogba, he opened up on his love for telling the African stories, the challenges of filmmaking and juggling between making documentaries and short films.
VUN: Talk about your background and what drew you to storytelling – movie directing a documentary, and content creation.
Diji: I had a normal childhood like every other kid had. I grew up in a society where traditional performers lived and performed a lot ( Dance, drama and drums ). I fell in love whenever I saw these performances and that birthed the love for African storytelling and my filmmaking career. Honestly, stage performances made me love what I do now.
VUN: At what point did you decide you were going to follow your love for stage performances and make a career out of it?
Diji: When I was in secondary school. Back then, I would do a lot of performances ( Comedy and drama). When I was in school, I found out what filmmaking is and I developed my love for it more via the films I watched and the books I read.
VUN: Which films and books?
Diji: I watched and still watch a lot of Tunde Kelani and Kunle Afolayan films. Because they tell the type of stories I love to tell via my films and the style or approach to filmmaking. For books, I read a lot of Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and Femi Osofisan’s books. A lot! Studying literature helped me a lot too.
VUN: Asides from Tunde Kelani’s and Kunle Afolayan’s films, which other filmmakers inspire you?
Diji: Well, I watch other films from other filmmakers. But, I pay attention more to the mentioned ones.
VUN: What attracted you to Mainframe Film and Media Institute?
Diji: Tunde Kelani. He’s always been my mentor and I grew up watching his films and admired him a lot because of his style of telling African stories. In 2015, I met him in his house and after hours of talking about filmmaking, he suggested his school to me and I was so excited. 5 months after meeting him, I graduated as one of his best students.
VUN: What are the important lessons you learnt from Mainframe Film and Media Institute that you continue to apply in your works?
Diji: Style of filmmaking and approach to it. I stated this above.
VUN: What personal philosophy do you have about storytelling?
Diji: I really don’t have any, to be honest. I’m only keen on telling strictly African stories that are universal.
VUN: How do you define African stories?
Diji: Stories about Africans and Africa. Beliefs, cultures, peoples, history about who we are and what we have been through. If we don’t tell these stories ourselves, other people will come and define who we are.
VUN: True that. What do you aim to achieve with your stories?
Diji: I’d like people to watch my films and see who they truly are in the films. I’d like the world to see and know who Africans are and what we have! There are amazing and beautiful stories around us that the world can benefit from and appreciate more than how they perceive us or our beliefs and cultures.
VUN: Considering your works so far, how far have you gone to achieve your aims of telling stories?
Diji: Oh yeah! It’s been amazing and interesting so far and I can’t thank God enough for everything. I have managed to create my style of filmmaking which is the African way. People now see the passion I have shown to African contents via my films and how I depict them. Also, I have made 5 short films and all are conscious films with great messages that could create awareness. I’m really happy and hope to do more.
VUN: Talking about doing more which projects are you currently working on?
Diji: I just finished the script for my next short film and it’s looking amazing already in my head. Also, I have been collaborating with young and talented filmmakers like me of recent. I have worked mostly on people’s set as Assistant Director and it’s been good so far.
VUN: Why would you consider working as an Assistant Director instead of directing as you have always done?
Diji: Filmmaking is vast! You have other talented acts doing what you do. Moreso, it’s a collaborative work and so, everyone’s hands are on deck.
VUN: Do we expect a feature film from you anytime soon?
Diji: I have a couple of scripts for that. But, I want to make short films for now before taking that challenge.
VUN: What challenges do you face with every production and how do you handle those challenges?
Diji: Most times, inadequate funds. I have the best team and I don’t take that for granted. Misunderstanding is bound to happen but as filmmakers, we know how to handle this during production and we wait till we finish our work before addressing any issue.
VUN: How do you ensure that you have a cordial relationship with your editors to achieve the best results?
Diji: As a film director, I edit my film theoretically (verbally) while the editor edits practically. Before I shoot my film, I already have how I want my film to look at and be after editing. It’s always easy for my editor and me when editing because most times, I have my edit book and I just give to him for easy check and cutting.
VUN: What inspired Hidden Euphoria and what did you want to achieve with it?
Diji: I have always wanted to tell the Makoko story and waited for the right time for it. As a storyteller, I just wanted to tell their stories and let people come together to help the community. After the project, two NGOs have gone back to the community to give back to the community.
VUN: Why did you title the Documentary about Makoko Hidden Euphoria? You were portraying the poor situation of Makoko.
Diji: The Hidden happiness of the people regardless of how their way of life is. They know it’s a bad condition but they are happy people.
VUN: Why Makoko?
Diji: I have always heard about the community and always wanted to tell the story.
VUN: What approach do you take in interviewing the people in your documentaries, to ensure you get the right perspective to tell their stories?
Diji: *laughs* A friendly one nah. People don’t want to talk, so you have to make them see reasons to talk.
VUN: How exactly do you make them see reasons?
Diji: Errrmmm, I really don’t know till I’m in the mood to work.
VUN: How do you juggle between directing documentaries and short films?
Diji: Well, I get ready for whichever I decide to do.
VUN: What do you consider the difference between the both?
Diji: Approach to them differs. The documentary is more freelance with planning too and no specific action is required because it must be as real as it is. Short films are different and more serious.
VUN: What have you learnt in the course of your work?
Diji: Teamwork works faster and I have met a lot of people with different characters.
VUN: If you weren’t curating contents, or telling stories, what else would you be doing?
Diji: Probably be a cricket player because I’m a very good bowler.
VUN: What advice would you give other budding filmmakers?
Diji: Create your style and walk that path.