As part of our yearlong series on Sundance filmmakers, The Independents, we asked participants to keep a diary of their working life and submit an accompanying self-portrait. Today’s diary is from C.J. Obasi (“Mami Wata”), who reflects on his movie’s selection as Nigeria’s submission for the international film category at the 2024 Oscars.
Read yesterday’s diary: ‘Sweat out the toxins’: How filmmaker Zackary Drucker stays positive in a bleak time
Sunday, 1 October
I wake up and say a prayer and meditate. I always try not to jump out of bed too soon after I wake up. I take some time to ponder the day, ponder myself and my place in the world. Then I jump out of bed.
Next thing I do is go to my home office and try to do get some writing done. I’m working on two feature film scripts simultaneously. Which is completely new to me. I’ve always worked on one script after another, but I’ve found that I’m overflowing with so much inspiration these days that I can’t help myself. The two scripts are very different. One is titled “La Pyramide: A Celebration of Dark Bodies” and the other is titled “Mortuary Man,” a romance drama with a touch of the supernatural, maybe. “La Pyramide” is an extension of what I did with “Mami Wata” as far as pushing aesthetic boundaries, but on a much larger canvas, and with color. “Mortuary Man” is really for my wife. She’s the one that got me to do it. She always said I never write romance. “Mortuary Man” is my answer to that request.
I managed to write a few pages of “La Pyramide” and I’m taking a break. I hate to push it. Better few quality pages than many mediocre ones. Especially when you’re working on the second draft. I just came back from Brazil for the Latin American premiere of “Mami Wata,” but I stayed longer so I can get a feel of Salvador, where a third of “La Pyramide” is set. The second draft of “La Pyramide” is looking and feeling stronger, now that I have a stronger perspective of Salvador.
Last night was busy and long, working with the Nigerian Oscar Submission Committee (NOSC) to submit “Mami Wata” materials and assets to the academy. It’s been quite dramatic trying to get all the materials uploaded with the deadline just around the corner.
Anyways, we’re done with that, and now we wait for the academy’s response.
Today, I plan to go see an acquaintance who’s visiting Cotonou from Paris. He’s leaving tonight, so I have to try to make this happen. It’s relatively easy to go anywhere in Cotonou, which is where I live now. Cotonou, Benin, is vastly different from Lagos, Nigeria. But to me, this is a good thing. A great thing actually.
This week is going to be a busy one for me. The weeks ahead, to be fair. My passport should be arriving with my U.K. visa today or tomorrow. And I have to finalize plans at home for my travel to Paris this week. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be in France, Switzerland, Germany, Tunisia, England, Scotland and back to France before I call it a year and return home to Cotonou. Staying away from family, especially my son, is tough. Luckily, my partner, who is my producer, understands and goes with me, as well a lot of trips herself. Film is our passion and livelihood.
Monday, 2 October
Still writing “La Pyramide: A Celebration of Dark Bodies.” Wrote a few more pages today. Closer to finishing second draft. I feel good about it more every day.
Friday, 6 October
I arrive in Paris. I’m one of the invited creatives for Creation Forum — an initiative of the president of France to find ways for French and African creatives in arts, media and technology to collaborate. The program will last until Sunday, and there’s a lot of great folks from all over the continent to meet, which rarely ever happens. Always a good time to meet good people.
Monday, 9 October
In my AirBnB in Bry-sur-Marne, a suburb on the outskirts of Paris. I turned in my second draft for “La Pyramide” in to my collaborators. Back to working on my other script, “Mortuary Man.” I’m on Page 54, which means I’m more than halfway to the finish, if it goes the way I hope.
‘Mami Wata’ director C.J. Obasi makes a video self-portrait for “The Independents,” our yearlong series on the lives of indie filmmakers.
Sunday, 15 October
On this night, “Mami Wata” is officially announced as Nigeria’s entry for the International Features Category of the 2024 Oscars. My phone’s been buzzing all night, all through the morning. It feels great and a significant achievement in the history of Nigerian cinema. You have to remember, I’m not the famous filmmaker, or even the celebrated “Nollywooder,” on everyone’s lips, so to have an outlier’s film chosen by the committee of 14 is unprecedented and symbolic to the new possibilities on the horizon for Nigerian cinema. This I’m excited about more than anything else.
Tuesday 17 October
Had a lunch meeting in Paris with some amazing ladies working in film and art. Then went to an academy screening of Alexander Payne’s new film “The Holdovers.” I liked it. It’s no “Nebraska,” but I enjoyed it a lot.
Friday, 20 October
“Mami Wata” is released theatrically in 10 French-speaking African countries. So far, the film has either played, is playing or is about to play theatrically in Nigeria, the U.S. and Canada, 10 Francophone African countries, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Germany and Austria, with more territories to come. For us, the theatrical run of the film was and has always been the priority. It really is a movie that is meant to be experienced on the big screen, and we want to give that to audiences as much as possible.
This story originally appeared on LATimes