(L-R) Kelechi Udegbe, Lílis Soares and C.J. Fiery Obasi of Mami Wata pose for a portrait at Getty Images Portrait Studio at Stacy's Roots to Rise Market on January 22, 2023 in Park City, Utah.

(L-R) Kelechi Udegbe, Lílis Soares and C.J. Fiery Obasi of Mami Wata pose for a portrait at Getty Images Portrait Studio at Stacy's Roots to Rise Market on January 22, 2023 in Park City, Utah.

Photo by Emily Assiran/Getty Images for Stacy's Pita Chips.

CJ Obasi's 'Mami Wata' Chosen as Nigeria's Oscar 2024 Submission

CJ Obasi's Mami Wata emerges as Nigeria's official selection for the 2024 Oscars, showcasing cultural richness and technical excellence on the world stage.

Nigeria has officially nominated CJ Obasi's Mami Wata for consideration in the 2024 Oscars' International Feature Film category, as announced by the Nigerian Official Selection Committee (NOSC) on Sunday. The monochromatic film narrates the tale of a West African goddess and her diminishing influence within a struggling village. It made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where it earned a special jury prize for its outstanding cinematography.

Stephanie Linus, the chairperson of the NOSC, commended the film for its "pertinent theme and unique approach to a story about pre- and post-colonial African societies." She also emphasized the film's technical and artistic brilliance, underlining that it is the first domestically produced Nigerian film to grace the screens at the Sundance Film Festival.

Since its release, Mami Wata has set and broken new records. It was the first feature film by a Nigerian filmmaker to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2023, where it received the Special Jury Award for Cinematography.

The International Feature Films award, presented annually by The Academy, recognizes feature-length motion pictures created outside the United States that contain 50 percent or more non-English dialogue. In recent years, Nigerian films have struggled to meet the eligibility requirements for this category.

In 2019, Genevieve Nnaji's Lionheart was disqualified from the Oscars for not fulfilling the non-English dialogue criteria, as the characters in the film primarily spoke in Pidgin English. In 2020, Desmond Ovbiagele's The Milkmaid also fell short of making the initial shortlist in the International Feature Film category, despite satisfying the eligibility criteria.

Since then, Nigeria had not submitted any films for Oscar consideration until Mami Wata. The NOSC selected the film for its "pertinent theme, focusing on multiple generations of women at the forefront of societal well-being, its unique approach to a narrative about pre and post-colonial African societies, and its technical and artistic excellence."

Key individuals behind the film include Adetokunbo "DJ Tee" Odubawo as the cinematographer, Emem Isong as the writer/producer, Dimeji Ajibola as the director, Jude Idada as the writer/director, Ngozi Okafor as the producer and costumier, John Njamah as an actor/director, and Meg Otanwa as an actress and polyglot.

Stephanie Linus expressed her excitement, stating, "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 advanced 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. The event will be broadcast live on ABC and in over 200 territories worldwide from the Dolby Theatre at Ovation, Hollywood.