Following the Nigerian Official Selection Committee’s (NOSC) recent decision to choose “Mami Wata” as Nigeria’s contender for the 96th Academy Awards in the International Feature Film (IFF) category, director C.J Obasi provides distinctive insights into “Mami Wata,” the Oscars selection process, and the profound significance of this nomination for Nigerian cinema.
“Mami Wata,” a captivating black-and-white film that delves into the vanishing influence of a West African goddess while telling the story of a beachside community grappling with profound belief interrogations when a stranger washes ashore, has entranced audiences globally.
During a brief interview with TNR, C.J Obasi, the creative genius behind “Mami Wata,” provides a fresh perspective on the film’s significance and his pivotal role in this cinematic journey.
Discussing the significance of the NOSC Oscar selection, Obasi underscores, “It’s significant because “Mami Wata” epitomizes a new narrative for Nigerian cinema on the global stage. The NOSC’s choice of “Mami Wata” to represent our nation on this global platform serves as a testament to this fact.”
When TNR inquired about his prospects of an Oscar victory, Obasi maintains a humble stance, acknowledging the unpredictable nature of the Oscars race. He humbly remarks, “No filmmaker, whether living or deceased, can confidently answer this question.”
Obasi sheds light on the selection process, offering clarity on the distinction between selection and nomination. He explains, “While some may have mistaken the selection for a nomination, the process in the International Features category unfolds as follows: Each country nominates one film from a pool of submissions. Nigeria submitted “Mami Wata” to the Academy. Subsequently, the Academy compiles a list of eligible films from all participating nations. Among these 15 films, another round of voting determines the final five Oscar-nominated films. “Mami Wata” stands as Nigeria’s official Oscar submission, marking the commencement of this captivating journey.”
NOSC’s chairperson, Stephanie Linus, emphasized the importance of this submission in promoting diversity and global representation within the world of cinema, stating, “I’m excited to announce a milestone in our NOSC journey: our first Pidgin film submission to the Academy, marking our commitment to diversity and global representation.”
Although efforts made by TNR to reach the members of the committee for a statement regarding this selection proved abortive, as they remained tight-lipped about their decision, “Mami Wata” now anticipates the judgment of the IFF Executive Committee, which will determine whether the film will beat dozens of other films from around the world to secure a spot on the coveted shortlist of contenders at the 96th Oscars ceremony, scheduled for Mar. 10, 2024.
In spite of challenges faced during its local box office run, “Mami Wata” emerged on the international stage with a remarkable victory, securing a special jury prize at the renowned Sundance Festival in 2023 for its vivid black-and-white cinematography. This achievement signifies a historic milestone for Nigerian cinema, highlighting its potential to captivate global audiences.
The film’s excellence is further underscored by its record-breaking 12 nominations for the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), illustrating the exceptional talents within the Nigerian filmmaking industry.
It’s worth noting that C.J Obasi’s name has been linked to Nigeria’s Oscar submissions previously. He played a role in the creation of “Lionheart,” Nigeria’s inaugural Oscar submission. Although “Lionheart” faced rejection due to language eligibility issues.
“Mami Wata” signifies the third Nigerian film submitted to the Academy, reinforcing Nigeria’s presence on the global cinematic stage and the continued influence of Obasi’s creative contributions.