This dreamlike West African tale of a village, its water goddess and the men who desire to control her, was a deserving Sundance winner for its vivid black-and-white cinematography.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
“Set in a small village called Iyi, Mami Wata tells the tale of three women whose lives have been shaped by their people’s devotion to a powerful goddess of water, wealth, and health. Through her priestess Mama Efe (Rita Edochie), Mami Wata is said to dole out protection, advice, and good fortune to the faithful who are willing to honor the deity’s traditions that have been passed down through their culture for generations.
Because Efe is Mami Wata’s anointed priestess, she and her biological daughter Zinwe (Uzoamaka Aniunoh) as well as her adoptive daughter Prisca (Evelyne Ily Juhen) all enjoy a certain revered status among their peers. But when a young boy suddenly falls ill and dies from a viral infection that Efe can’t save him from, long-held murmurs of doubt about Mama Efe’s connection to Mami Wata begin to turn into shouts, and many of Iyi’s people start to question whether the goddess is even real.
When the women take in a mysterious man called Jasper (Emeka Amakeze), who washes up on Iyi’s beaches one day, an infectious revolutionary spirit begins to take hold of the village and reveals just how tenuous the balance of power there truly is.” — Charles Pulliam-Moore, The Verge
“Mami Wata is an exploration and reimagination of West African mythology, something that has likewise been an outsized influence on Obasi throughout his career. ‘One way or another, I delve into the occult. But I don’t see the occult as anything evil,’ he says. ‘It’s our culture. It’s our spirituality. It’s who we are.’ He continues: ‘When I approached a story like Mami Wata, it was very important for me not to care about those perceptions and look at it the way I think we should look at us’—that is, to celebrate African myths and storytelling by viewing them through an African lens, unencumbered by the Western gaze.” — Christopher Vourlias, Variety