In Conversation with C.J. Obasi on His New 'Kick-Ass' Supernatural Thriller Inspired by Mami Wata

The award-winning Nigerian filmmaker wants to challenge dated stereotypes of African women with this new project.

Award-winning Nigerian filmmaker C.J. Obasi followed-up his critically-acclaimed guerrilla debut feature Ojuju (2014), and sophomore effort O-Town (2015), with an Afrofuturistic short film based on award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor's short story Hello, Moto. Currently touring the international film festival circuit, the short film—titled Hello, Rain—follows a woman who discovers witchcraft in science, and science in witchcraft, when she creates wigs for her friends that give them supernatural powers. The story tackles individual and societal identity, in a fairytale that unfolds via a blend of witchery and technology.

Staying within the world of the supernatural and female-centered narratives, the prolific Obasi—who first caused an international stir with his zombie thriller Ojuju, set against a contemporary Nigeria backdrop—looks to do the same with his next feature film, in what will be another renegade take on a familiar genre, inspired by the age-old West African legend of love and sacrifice known as Mami Wata (Mother Water). Summarized by the filmmaker as a "kick-ass, female-driven, black & white supernatural thriller," the official synopsis of the film reads:

When Zinwe visits her late grandmother's village—a small rural fish village, she must confront her true spiritual destiny, and save her people from the hands of the ruthless and violent Sergeant Jasper, to usher in a new age of blessing and prosperity.

The Mami Wata folklore has taken several unique forms across Africa and its diaspora—primarily in the Americas—as there are a variety of interpretations of what the deity truly represents. In some instances, she's reified as a good spirit, or a mermaid, whose presence in a person's life is a sign of good fortune. Others will describe her as cunning and seductive, or protective yet dangerous, a snake charmer, or a combination of all of the above.

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