“Mami Wata” Reviews: A Tale of Water, Power, and Destiny

“Mami Wata” Reviews: A Tale of Water, Power, and Destiny

In the mystical coastal village of Iyi, tradition and modernity clash like waves against the shore. The villagers revere Mama Efe, a faith-healer who channels the ancient water spirit, Mami Wata. Her powers are both a blessing and a burden, for she holds sway over life and death.

Zinwe, Mama Efe’s daughter, questions her mother’s abilities. She yearns for a different life beyond the village, where technology and progress beckon. But Zinwe’s loyalty to her family and the goddess keeps her tethered.

Enter Prisca, an adopted daughter with secrets of her own. Prisca’s unwavering devotion to Mama Efe conceals a deeper purpose—one that threatens to unravel the delicate balance between tradition and rebellion.

As the village grapples with drought and unrest, a mysterious stranger arrives. Jasper, a rebel with a dark past, stirs the waters further. His eyes hold secrets, and his intentions remain murky. Is he friend or foe?

The sea whispers ancient prophecies, and the villagers watch as power shifts. Mama Efe’s matriarchal rule faces challenges from within and without. The clash between loyalty and desire, tradition and progress, builds to a crescendo.

In a hypnotic finale, the village confronts its destiny. The goddess herself emerges, her form fluid like the tides. As raindrops fall and seashells sing, the villagers must choose: cling to the past or embrace the unknown.

Mami Wata is a mesmerizing dive into myth, where water reflects power, and the enigmatic goddess weaves her spell. Prepare to be enchanted, disturbed, and transformed by this cinematic odyssey.

The Cinematic Clash of Black and White in Mami Wata

Shot in black-and-white monochrome, thanks to Brazilian cinematographer Lílis Soares, Mami Wata explores the ensuing volcanic outcome of the contact between modernity and tradition in a local riverine community. The fulcrum of the production seems to be the use of polar ends, an initiative that is spot-on and symbolic, with the “black” and “white” colors posed as parallels to concepts of “tradition” and “modernity” in the film. But then, just as the cinematic synergy of these neutral colors is smooth, the possibility of a peaceful coexistence of an innocuous modern civilization and African spirituality is palpable.

Culture Custodian

Unfortunately, while the strikingly beautiful black-and-white camerawork and Nathan Delannoy’s editing use the cover of night to their advantage, the fight scenes fail to match the film’s philosophical and aesthetic ambitions. But it is for its ambition and its visual choices that Mami Wata stands out. Cinematographer Lílis Soares deservedly received a Special Jury Award at Sundance earlier this year.


An Arresting Piece of Work

The drama is stylised and elaborate – but also often violent and bizarre – and the dialogue is in subtitled pidgin English. The sleek, stark images of this film are hypnotic; the faces are compelling and the hallucinatory finale is rather inspired. An arresting piece of work.

The Guardian

Empowering Women and Making a Political Statement

Unlike many African films that exalt patriarchy, Mami Wata makes a strong case for women empowerment and female domination. The mermaid-goddess, Mami Wata, is a symbol of femininity. Her priestess Mama Efe, is the ultimate spiritual authority in the land. Following the uprising, the sisters Prisca (Evelyn Ily Juhen) and Zinwe (Uzoamaka Aniunoh) form a powerful duo in order to overcome the masculine rebels. An eventual invocation and manifestation of the mermaid-goddess crowns it all. Thus, the Obasis’ brainchild, like a political prophecy, envisages a degenderized African political hemisphere where more deserving women can as well hold the highest positions in power.

Culture Custodian

There is no escaping the political implications of a story involving a man looking to upend a system headed by a woman and a female deity. But Mami Wata doesn’t spend too much time on the gender dynamics – Obasi has other fish to fry. For one thing, as his story develops to include a white man providing arms to a group intent on war, the parallels to Africa’s real political history are barefaced.

It’s easy to see that Jabi’s wish for progress has merit; but so does Mama Efe’s fealty to a deity who has given Iyi peace. Some viewers might see this as equivocation, but such ambiguity is an honest reflection of the politics of civil wars. Obasi evidently wants to put forward a particular interpretation of Africa’s blood-spattered history and, as is the case with the history of too many nation states in the continent, Iyi becomes the setting for protracted violence.

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