Discover more from In Nollywood
Mami Wata: CJ Obasi's Love Letter
In this personal note, Mami Wata's writer and director, CJ Obasi recounts his film journey, the significance of the film's Oscars selection and how you can support it.
We had a black and white TV set when I was younger. It was where I watched all the shows and movies growing up in a small town in Owerri. There were no cinemas then so this black and white TV was my dream tube, my stargate to a thousand galaxies and my wardrobe to Narnia!
My entire world was built around this tube and before I even understood who or what a filmmaker was, I was ‘making films’ with friends, and drawing comics. All in my quiet little town.
Then, one day, the Grundig German television was blown apart by lighting (some said it was thunder), and no electrician within and outside the borders of the town could fix it because everything was in German.
I felt like I had lost something because I had. That television was everything to me and then, it was gone. Since that time, I have carried the magic of film with me and continue to work towards creating the same magic for other people through my projects.
Let me tell you, Mami Wata is special magic and means so much to me as a filmmaker.
You know how you have those dreams that linger with you and stubbornly refuse to go anywhere till you execute them? Yeah, Mami Wata and our journey to Sundance is one of those dreams and it has always been there. I didn’t learn about the festival till I had become a young adult. After seeing filmmakers like Tarantino, Rodriguez, P.T. Anderson, Coen brothers, and many of such made their bones through Sundance, I wanted to do the same.
I eventually graduated with a degree in Computer Science and got a regular job. At my job I would stream videos of Sundance, and the filmmakers arriving at Park City in the snow, with their coats and boots, and I would say to myself “I want to be here.” But I couldn’t answer how.
Kids who grew up in Owerri, or O-Town as we called it, don’t make it all the way there. But I was miserable. Film haunted me. I’m not exaggerating. I would wake up cold and sweaty at night with anxiety pangs. It was the most depressing time of my life. So in 2011, I resigned and decided to pursue filmmaking.
I made my first feature in 2013. It took only 10 years from the day I made my first feature to get to Sundance. But it took the rest of my life to get here.
It’s been eight months since Mami Wata premiered at Sundance, and the entire experience still feels fresh like it was yesterday. The project, from conception to premiere took a good chunk of my life. Seven years. Mami Wata was a rebirth for me, both as a filmmaker, and as an African. It culminates my vision, philosophy and ideals about filmmaking along the borders of representation, perspective, and the images that I want to put out into the world.
This is why Mami Wata’s selection by the Nigerian Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC), as Nigeria’s entry for the 2024 Oscars is significant. It symbolizes how we want to be represented and perceived as well as the images we want to put out of ourselves, our stories and tradition to the rest of the world.
It is the beginning of a new conversation, and a call to arms and support for all who dream and aspire for a new narrative around us, and around our stories. This is cinema that also transcends cinema. This is a fight for our identity, and a seeking of meaning and balance, in a world where chaos and confusion increasingly thrives.
When one man embarks on a journey first – he’s a trailblazer. But when many walk with him, it’s a movement. We need you to join this movement by helping us amplify Mami Wata’s selection as wide as possible.
All you need to do is share any of the images below and advocate for the film’s success at the 2024 Oscars on social media.
Thank you for coming on this journey with us.