Nigeria proudly unveils its official nominee for the 2024 Oscars, as CJ Obasi’s “Mami Wata” takes center stage. This groundbreaking film, characterized by its rich cultural diversity and unparalleled technical excellence, has been chosen by the Nigerian Official Selection Committee (NOSC) as the country’s entry in the International Feature Film category.
“Mami Wata,” a monochromatic masterpiece, weaves a compelling narrative surrounding a West African goddess and her diminishing influence within a struggling village. The film made its dazzling debut at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in January, where it not only captivated audiences but also clinched a special jury prize for its extraordinary cinematography.
Stephanie Linus, the chairperson of NOSC, commended the film for its “pertinent theme and unique approach to a story about pre- and post-colonial African societies.” She went on to highlight the film’s remarkable technical and artistic brilliance, noting that it represents a groundbreaking moment in Nigerian cinema history. “Mami Wata” marks the first domestically produced Nigerian film to grace the screens at the Sundance Film Festival, making it a cultural milestone.
Since its unveiling, “Mami Wata” has shattered records and made history. Its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2023 established it as the first Nigerian feature film to grace this international stage, where it received the prestigious Special Jury Award for Cinematography.
The International Feature Films award, an annual recognition presented by The Academy, celebrates feature-length movies created outside the United States with 50 percent or more non-English dialogue. In recent years, Nigerian films have encountered challenges meeting the eligibility criteria for this category. Notably, in 2019, Genevieve Nnaji’s “Lionheart” was disqualified from the Oscars for its predominant use of Pidgin English. In 2020, Desmond Ovbiagele’s “The Milkmaid” also faced disappointment in the International Feature Film category, despite its eligibility.
However, Nigeria has once again made its mark with “Mami Wata.” The NOSC selected the film for its relevant theme, which revolves around multiple generations of women driving societal well-being, its innovative approach to narratives about pre and post-colonial African societies, and its outstanding technical and artistic achievements.
The talented individuals behind “Mami Wata” include Adetokunbo “DJ Tee” Odubawo as the cinematographer, Emem Isong as the writer and producer, Dimeji Ajibola as the director, Jude Idada as the writer and director, Ngozi Okafor as the producer and costumier, John Njamah as an actor and director, and Meg Otanwa as an actress and polyglot.
Stephanie Linus expressed her excitement, highlighting the significance of this submission: “I’m thrilled to announce a significant milestone in our NOSC journey: our first Pidgin film submission to the Academy, underscoring our commitment to diversity and global representation. I urge filmmakers not to waver in honing their skills and raising their production standards to meet global expectations.”
“Mami Wata” has taken a momentous step forward in the Oscars race, securing the highest votes from the 14-member committee. The film’s next phase will be determined by the IFF Executive Committee.
The 96th Oscars ceremony is scheduled for March 10, 2024. This grand event will be broadcast live on ABC and in over 200 territories worldwide from the iconic Dolby Theatre at Ovation, Hollywood. “Mami Wata” has set the stage for a thrilling journey through the world of cinema, representing Nigeria’s cultural richness and cinematic excellence on the global stage.