Director: C.J. 'Fiery' Obasi
Starring: Evelyne Ily Juhen, Uzoamaka Aniunoh, Emeka Amakeze, Rita Edochie, Kelechi Udegbe
Combining strands of Nigerian myth, folklore, faith, spirituality, and modernism, C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi’s Mami Wata is a confident film that is aware of exactly what it is trying to say thematically, even if it often takes a long road to reach its destination.
The film opens by telling us that Mami Wata is a water spirit revered in West, Central, and Southern Africa and in the Afro-American diaspora, and it is apparent that Mami Wata can mean different things to different people. Here, Mami Wata is seen as a saviour to Zimwe (Aniunoh), who, upon visiting the village of her late grandmother, must evoke the water goddess in order to vanquish rebel villagers who aim to take control of the settlement and to usher herald a new, prosperous age for those around her.
"With its stark and beautiful black-and-white cinematography, Mami Wata can also lay claim to being one of the best-looking movies of the year"
Mami Wata focuses on the dynamics between tradition and modernity, and how, for some, both can co-exist, and, for others, only one can be prevalent. Additionally, the duality of the narrative exists further with subtext surrounding males and females, belief and indecision, and more. Obasi does a solid job of blending the threads cohesively, the issue is that the film can feel slow and ponderous during its exploration of these. What it does have, though, is two fabulous lead performances from Evelyne Ily Juhen and Uzoamaka Aniunoh as Prisca and Zinwe respectively, both navigating the movie with a quiet yet steely conviction alongside Emeka Amakeze’s brash but imposing Jasper. It’s a film that can boast a fine collection of performances.
With its stark and beautiful black-and-white cinematography, Mami Wata can also lay claim to being one of the best-looking movies of the year. DoP Lilis Soares captures and lights so many of the sequences with a master touch that you feel almost compelled to study every inch of the frame all the way until to reach the film’s beguiling final shot - and what a striking image Obasi chooses to end the film.
What Mami Wata lacks in narrative and pacing, it more than makes up for performance-wise and is visually sumptuous. Whilst it may not have hit the mark entirely, when it did, Mami Wata is a very solid affair.
July 21st 2023