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Mami Wata nominated for world cinema prize

By Olawunmi Ojo
11 December 2022   |   3:44 am
A Nigerian film, Mami Wata, has been selected for the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2023 edition of the Sundance Film Festival, holding in Salt Lake City, Utah in the United States from January 19 to 29, 2023.

Obasi

A Nigerian film, Mami Wata, has been selected for the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2023 edition of the Sundance Film Festival, holding in Salt Lake City, Utah in the United States from January 19 to 29, 2023.

By the selection on Wednesday, December 7, CJ Obasi, a film director, made filmmaking history by becoming the first home grown Nigerian filmmaker to be selected by the prestigious Film Festival with his latest effort.

The film’s selection in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition makes it a nominee for the festival’s World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, Directing, and Special Jury Award.

Born and raised in Owerri, CJ Obasi grew up on horror movies and novels. Comics and character development were also a favourite pastime for him, a talent he made money from as a young boy. He studied computer science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, but took to filmmaking as his life’s calling.

Obasi is not new to filmmaking. His feature debut, titled, Ojuju, debuted at the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) in 2014, winning the award for Best Nigerian Film. For his groundbreaking work in Ojuju, he won the Trailblazer of the Year Award at the 2015 AMVCAs and has now been listed in IndieWire’s Top 12 Best Zombie Movies of All Time.

As a writer, the filmmaker may best be remembered for writing the drama ‘Lionheart,’ directed by Genevieve Nnaji, and contributing to the ‘Living in Bondage’ sequel directed by Ramsey Nouah.

The Sundance Music Festival brings together the most original storytellers for its annual programme of dramatic, documentary, short films, episodic storytelling, lively filmmaker conversations and panel discussions. The prestigious gathering has seen the launch of the careers of several well-known directors, including the director and writer of Black Panther, Ryan Coogler as well as other industry heavyweights like Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Darren Aronofsky, and the Coen brothers.

Produced by Oge Obasi, and distributed in Africa by Film One, ‘Mami Water’ is the story of two sisters who, when their village is threatened, must fight to save their people, and restore the glory of a mermaid goddess to the land. Reacting to news of the selection and Sundance’s announcement, leading production and distribution company, Film One Distribution, distributors of the film in Africa, expressed their excitement and declared it as a boost for the Nigerian film industry.

“This is really a big deal for us,” said the company’s co-founders, Moses Babatope and Kene Okwuosa in a statement.

“We had a good feeling about this film and believed in CJ’s exceptional talent as a director, and while we have looked forward to this selection, it is still very gratifying to know we are supporting the very best coming out of Nigeria,” the company added.

Excited, C.J. and Oge Obasi said that they are elated to be selected for the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. “We are so very thrilled about this selection. It is such a great honour and honestly, it feels surreal.”

You put in the work and hope for the best, then when recognition comes, it is both remarkable and very fulfilling. It is also a challenge to keep raising the bar and inspiring others to do the same.”

Since 1985, hundreds of films launched at the Sundance Film festival have gone on to gain critical acclaim and reach new audiences worldwide. Approximately 4,000 submissions for feature films, and 9,000 for shorts are submitted to the festival each year. Of these, only about 120 features and about 60-70 shorts make it in each year.