CJ Obasi's 'Mami Wata' is the toast of Sundance
Mami Wata currently maintains a perfect score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The black and white drama is set in a mythical village and explores the fate of a local deity and her followers in a rapidly-changing world.
Mami Wata made history as the first homegrown Nigerian film at Sundance and even won a special jury prize for its striking cinematography. The film’s sweeping critical acclaim at the festival has been the cherry on the cake.
Mami Wata currently maintains a perfect score of 100% on review-aggregation website, Rotten Tomatoes, and this is a rundown of what critics have said about Nollywood’s newest jewel following its Sundance debut.
The Hollywood Reporter
Mami Wata recasts familiar stories in newly energising ways and experiments visually with black, white and the grays between them. The film revisits well-trodden threads of tension in narratives from postcolonial nations like Nigeria — the creeping violence of colonisation, the pull of self-determination — and tries to ask different questions and imagine alternatives.
One doesn't need to be familiar with Mami Wata's eponymous embodiment of the divine feminine to appreciate its story about multiple generations of women doing everything in their power to keep their people safe. But as you let Mami Wata wash over you, the film paints a picture of people fighting to understand their beliefs in forces larger than themselves. And in each of those people, you can see shades of Mami Wata.
Through the use of a fable structure, Obasi deftly weaves heavy political, philosophical, and theological ideas together with his keen eye for striking imagery to craft a film that feels both classical and futuristic.
From its opening title design to the last notes of Tunde Jegede's score, Mami Wata is a work of art.
Mami Wata is a complex narrative that has sometimes been shut out due to bastardisations of how Africans have contextualised her story since the arrival of non-historically African religions and traditions.
Mami Wata has a lot to say about respect — respect for nature, respect for spirituality and respect for female empowerment in a world where there are forces that want to disrespect or destroy all three. Mami Wata's greatest strength is in its absorbing story and how it is told. It leads to a stunning ending that can leave viewers breathless and emotionally moved.
Mami Wata is like watching a painting come to life with immaculately sculpted visuals that come together to craft a captivating fairytale about what happens when traditions don’t adapt to modernity.
Mami Wata's fairytale of tested, lost, then rediscovered faith and the dangers of inflexibility comes in the most visually stunning package possible. A well-spun myth with gilded illustrations so lovely that each is worth framing.
Black Girl Nerds
Mami Wata is an immersive experience that transports you to a place both otherworldly and grounded in a brutal reality. CJ 'Fiery' Obasi's enchanting and suspenseful supernatural thriller feels like it originated from a stage play or best-selling novel. Still, credit goes to the filmmaker's imagination and artistic elegance.
Mami Wata will make its African premiere at the Pan-African Film & TV Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) in late February. But it’s unclear when the film will start screening in Nigerian cinemas and/or debut on streaming sites.
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