I finally got to see Mami Wata in an eight-person-filled cosy lounge at Broadway Cinema in Robin Hood’s village Nottingham. True to its title and mysticism, the movie casts a spell on you. It would be wrong to call this a “movie”, this is not a singular work of art, the Obasis created an exhibition. Prisca (Evelyne Ily, Mon Dieu, I could stare at her all day) is your tour guide as you travel through this magnificent monochromatic museum, exploring emotionally evoking themes with the sound of crashing ocean waves soothing your soul.
Do you remember dissecting The Joys of Motherhood in your Literature in English class (SS1A or B), trying to figure out the layers of meaning behind Buchi Emecheta’s words? This movie is our new literature textbook, we can spend hours decoding it, lifting several meanings, and picking out topics for debate.
Are there similarities between Mama Efe and the Nigerian church? Taking our tithes and offerings but being powerless in driving any real change in the country?
Can you see how politicians only use resources to strengthen their claim to power?
“There is no virus in my village.” Are we talking Covid?
What do we believe in?
Have we abandoned our deities in favour of foreign gods? Have we lost our identity?
This movie got me to think about who I am. I am a Nigerian, colonized by the British and raised on American television. I speak English more than I speak my tongue and should I not dress more like the people of Iyin. Where is my identity? What is the Nigerian identity? Corruption?
Who pours libation for the god in my grandfather’s obi? Who worships Ogbuide? Where is my ofo? Is Nigeria being punished with satanic rulers for abandoning our gods? If the accompanying Japa trend continues, would our language and stories be lost?
I am veering off-topic, eh? This is what the movie does to you, it takes you places, you transcend, and your soul wanders. This is a great movie and most people should see it. I will give a score of 7/10. A1 for cinematography, costume, and soundtrack (excellent sound, Mr. Tunde Jegede please do release to us). B3 for the story and C5 for language.
Maybe I stayed too long in the astral plane that I missed Jasper’s motivation for joining Jabi. It was mostly theme-focused with little or not enough work done on the characters. The conflict took too long to set up as well.
Pidgin was used to complete/fulfil the Oscar-baiting, but it had a stiffness about it, Rita Edochie and Kelechi Udegbe were the only ones who spoke with real conviction. It did not roll off the tongue smoothly. “What kin thing be this” and “Which kin thing be this” is not the same sentence. Yes, there are grammar rules in pidgin. I also wish the characters did not have to enunciate too much, it felt like they were giving time for the international audience to catch up with the subtitles.
I am rooting for Mami Wata to win the International Feature Film Award for Nigeria. I do fear it might not make up for the pain of not being celebrated at home (at poor cinema numbers). I must encourage the producers (Fiery Film), you made a great piece, but you must acknowledge it is not a commercial-type movie (No Osas, No Nengi et al). You must pick your poison, make art, or go for pizzazz. Most award-winning films are indeed “boring” depending on who you ask (RE: Fences, The Post, There Will be Blood). Not many would make The Dark Knight (artistic and commercial success), Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon is yet to recover its budget at the box office, this is the time we live in.
It is also best to avoid thinking that some Nollywood gatekeepers fought against this movie in Nigerian cinemas, you are bigger than creating internal squabbles and feeding Nollywood conspiracy theories. A good market sells itself, yes, but movies are not garri. Marketing and publicity have become the most important aspect of moviemaking. If there is another Nigerian cinema run, double abi quadruple down on this, pay influencers, TikTok, outfits, face make-up or paint. The goal is to get the first batch in and then rely on word of mouth based on your movie’s brilliance. It is not a shameful thing to market your movie. Also, think about the state of the country when Mami Wata had its run, even Merry Men 3 could not rise above it. Country hard, nobody dey go cinema.
Follow C.J. Fiery Obasi on Twitter (never calling it X), @FieryCJ and look out for his movies. He co-wrote the near-perfect Living In Bondage: Breaking Free and Lionheart films (showing on Netflix). We await the release of Ojuju and O-town to streaming platforms.