Mami Wata is a 2023 black-and-white fantasy thriller film written and directed by C.J. "Fiery" Obasi, based on West African folklore. It is a co-production between Nigeria, France and the United Kingdom.

Mami Wata
US Promotional release poster
Directed byC.J. "Fiery" Obasi
Written byC. J. "Fiery" Obasi
Produced byOge Obasi
StarringEvelyne Ily Juhen
Uzoamaka Aniunoh
Kelechi Udegbe
Emeka Amakeze
CinematographyLílis Soares
Edited byNathan Delannoy
Music byTunde Jegede
  • Fiery Film Company
  • Guguru Studios
  • Ifind Pictures
  • PalmWine Media
Distributed byCAA Media Finance
alief SAS
Aya Films
Release date
  • 23 January 2023 (2023-01-23) (Sundance)
Running time
107 minutes
  • Nigeria
  • France
  • United Kingdom

The film premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, marking Obasi's third feature to screen at Sundance.[1] In October 2023, it was selected as the Nigerian entry for Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards by The Nigerian Official Selection Committee (NOSC).[2] It was nominated in the Best International Film category of the 39th Independent Spirit Awards,[3] and in the Outstanding International Motion Picture category of the 55th NAACP Image Awards.[4]

Cast edit

Production edit

Obasi first came up with and began developing Mami Wata in 2016.[5] After writing a few drafts, he took part in a number of labs to help refine the script. In an interview with CNN, Obasi stated he "wanted to make a hyper-stylised film" with its style rooted in substance, taking inspiration from his favourite filmmakers such as Akira Kurosawa and David Lynch.[6] The characters Prisca and Zinwe were inspired by Obasi's late sisters. Production companies attached to Mami Wata include Obasi's Fiery Film Company, Guguru Studios, Palmwine Media, Swiss Fund Visions Sud Est and Ifind Pictures of France.[7]

Principal photography took place on location in the rural villages of Benin and wrapped in January 2021.[5]

Reception edit

At the Sundance Film Festival, cinematographer Lílis Soares won the Special Jury Prize in the World Dramatic Competition for the film's cinematography.[8] It also picked up three awards at FESPACO - Prix de la Critique Paulin S. Vieyra (African Critics Award), Meilleure Image (Cinematography Award) and Meilleur Décor (Set Design Award).[9] It was acquired by Dekanalog for North American distribution.[10]

Critical response edit

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 100% approval rating based on 38 reviews, with a critics consensus that "Visually stunning and narratively stirring, Mami Wata uses its monochromatic palette to reveal a captivating, dreamlike world.".[11]

The Hollywood Reporter describes it as, "A vivid narrative and a dynamic study in color."[12]IndieWire said: "The extra time spent developing the film pays off on screen: From its opening title design to the last notes of Tunde Jegede’s score, Mami Wata is a work of art."[13]The Los Angeles Times said: "That balance between light and dark is how Obasi most potently underscores all his themes: faith and proof, tradition versus modernity, the otherworldly alongside the human, and of course, Mami Wata's power to give and take."[14]The Wall Street Journal said: "Mr. Obasi's script elevates folklore by subtly infusing it with political implications and a sardonic outlook on feminine vs. masculine power."[15] The New York Times Critic's Pick review said: "In Mami Wata, the archetypes are familiar, but they work to make this Nigerian film a distinctly economical masterpiece."[16] Matt Zoller Seitz of in his review, gave it a four-star rating (the highest) saying: "The film casts a spell, and the spell persists to the end."[17]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Mami Wata". 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved January 22, 2023.
  2. ^ The Scoove, Africa (October 16, 2023). "CJ Obasi's "Mami Wata" is Nigeria's Official Submission to the 96th Oscars". The Scoove Africa. Retrieved October 16, 2023.
  3. ^ "Mami Wata". 2024 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Retrieved December 5, 2023.
  4. ^ "Nominees Announced for the 55th NAACP Image Awards". NAACP Image Awards. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  5. ^ a b "MAMI WATA goes to venice!". Fiery Film. July 20, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  6. ^ Page, Thomas (February 13, 2023). "With Sundance winner 'Mami Wata,' CJ 'Fiery' Obasi is redefining what it means to be a Nigerian filmmaker". CNN Style. Retrieved February 15, 2023.
  7. ^ Mitchell, Wendy (January 24, 2023). "Nigeria's CJ Obasi on how West African folklore inspired Sundance title 'Mami Wata'". Screen International. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  8. ^ Donnelly, Matt; Debruge, Peter (January 27, 2023). "Sundance Winners: 'A Thousand and One' Takes U.S. Dramatic Jury Prize (Complete List)". Variety. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  9. ^ Husseini, Shaibu (March 11, 2023). "Award Haul for C.J Obasi's Mami Wata At FESPACO". The Guardian Nigeria. Retrieved March 11, 2023.
  10. ^ Ntim, Zack (May 18, 2023). "'Mami Wata:' West African Folktale Lands U.S. Deal Following Sundance Debut". Deadline. Retrieved May 18, 2023.
  11. ^ "Mami Wata", Rotten Tomatoes, retrieved October 27, 2023
  12. ^ Gyarkye, Lovia (January 31, 2023), "'Mami Wata' Review: A Nigerian Allegory's Energizing Experiments in Black and White", The Hollywood Reporter, retrieved January 31, 2023
  13. ^ Rife, Katie (January 25, 2023), "'Mami Wata' Review: Cinematography Is the Star in Mesmerizing West African Folk Tale", IndieWire, retrieved January 25, 2023
  14. ^ Abele, Robert (October 6, 2023), "'Review: 'Mami Wata' serves up a gorgeously rendered West African fable, tinged with mysticism", Los Angeles Times, retrieved October 6, 2023
  15. ^ Smith, Kyle (September 28, 2023), "Mami Wata' Review: A West African Struggle for Supremacy", The Wall Street Journal, retrieved September 28, 2023
  16. ^ Yu, Brandon (September 28, 2023), "Mami Wata' Review: An Old God Flickers Out in a New Era", The New York Times, retrieved September 28, 2023
  17. ^ Seitz, Matt Zoller (September 29, 2023), "Mami Wata",, retrieved September 29, 2023

External links edit