Playing July 20 and 21st at Fantasia Film Festival 2023
For tickets, please visit this link.
Beliefs in the goddess Mami Wata stretch from Senegal to as far as Zambia and in what C.J. “Fiery” Obasi’s crafts in his movie about her is not only mesmerising but also modern. She’s more than just another mermaid / patron deity to those cities that still venerate her to this day. Her ability to cure ailments isn’t the only reason. The enormous snake that accompanies her is a symbol of her divine authority.
In the isolated village of Iyi, what the people are facing is multifold. Mama Efe (Rita Edochie)’s role as ruler is challenged. That’s because some people are dying from an unknown disease, and she can’t cure this ailment. One child has crossed over already. While some want her to step down, others are asking if their goddess has forsaken them.
Zinwe (Uzoamaka Aniunoh) thinks it’s time to get help with the help of modern medicine. That is, they should seek help from white man. Although she may be next in line in being leader, since she’s the daughter of Efe, taking responsibility is a role she’s not ready to take on. In contrast, Prisca (Evelyne Ily Juhen) is even worse. To specify that she represents is best not spoiled.
If that turmoil isn’t enough, a stranger is also trying to upend things. Jasper (Emeka Amakeze) represents a patriarchal world no one really wants, and the way he infiltrates himself in this village is suspicious.
Although this stylish film is light on getting into the mystic, it’s heavy on delivering a world where absolutes are. We’re dealing with how worlds are ruled by a class system, and the other themes concern investigating who is in the right. Mami Wata is a very talkative film and it must be seen on the proper projection screen to marvel at all the monochromatic texture that has been captured on film. Obasi’s vision is fairly solid. In what’s presented in black-and-white only adds to the polarity of what goes on.
What this filmmaker presents is ultimately a fable more so than a thriller. It’s not like lavish productions like Women King and Black Panther, and that’s okay. Although I was expecting Mami Wata to appear midway in this film to help this village out, that would be cheating since it shows she can’t help solve the problems for every village that worships her.
According to various online sources about this divine figure, Mami Wata isn’t too hard to figure out. If you help her, she will reward you with more than just money. If you incur her wrath, hell hath no fury than a woman scorned. It’s a work I’ll have to rewatch in order to comprehend the other narrative elements better. When I’m a hobby folklorist, there’s a lot to be amazed at, and one viewing isn’t enough in order to fully enjoy the Lady Fatima moment when it does present itself.
4 Stars out of 5