The magical and hypnotic fantasy tale “Mami Wata” arrives in US cinemas this weekend

The magical and hypnotic fantasy tale "Mami Wata" arrives in US cinemas this weekend
Evelyne Ily Juhen in Mami Wata (2023). Photo © Fiery Film

Shot in beautiful black and white, Mami Wata (2023) shows how the harmony in a village is threatened by outside elements, while two sisters must fight to save their people and restore the glory of a mermaid goddess to the land.

The movie is set in the oceanside village of Iyi, where the revered Mama Efe acts as an intermediary between the people and the all-powerful water deity Mami Wata. But when a young boy is lost to a virus, Efe’s devoted daughter Zinwe and skeptical protégé Prisca warn Efe about unrest among the villagers. With the sudden arrival of a mysterious rebel deserter named Jasper, a conflict erupts, leading to a violent clash of ideologies and a crisis of faith for the people of Iyi.

The awards-winner Nigerian filmmaker C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi is the writer, executive producer, and director of Mami Wata (2023), his most celebrated film after the horror Ojuju (2014), the thriller O-Town (2015), and a segment in the Nigerian horror-folk anthology Juju Stories (2021).

This potent modern fable deploys vivid black-and-white cinematography, rich sound design, and a hypnotic score in a folk-futurist style both earthy and otherworldly. Obasi depicts a pitched battle between opportunistic militants promising technological progress and a matriarchal spiritual order living in fragile harmony with the ocean. Mami Wata (2023) transports viewers to a place that seems both suspended in time and perhaps running out of time, as the threats of modern life wash up on its shores.

Evelyne Ily Juhen, Uzoamaka Aniunoh, Emeka Amakeze, Rita Edochie, Kelechi Udegbe, Tough Bone, Tim Ebuka, Sofiath Sanni, David Avincin Oparaeke, and Hidaya Ibrahim form the main cast of the film.

Mami Wata (2023) had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2023, where it won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Cinematography (Lílis Soares) and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. After that, it was also part of Festival Panafricain du Cinéma de Ouagadougou – FESPACO, Wisconsin Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, New York African Film Festival, Filmfest München, Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival, Fantasia Film Festival, New Zealand International Film Festival, and Afrika Film Festival Cologne among others where it continued collecting many awards and nominations.

Dekanalog is distributing the movie in North America and has scheduled it for a theatrical release on September 29, 2023.

Watch the official trailer for Mami Wata (2023).