‘Lionheart’ Disqualification Upsets Nigerians

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By Vanessa Obioha

Nigeria’s dream to contest at the 92nd Academy Awards was truncated on November 4, when the Academy announced that the selected film ‘Lionheart’ failed to meet the requirements. According to the Academy, nominees in its Best International Feature Film Category must have a predominantly non-English dialogue track, and ‘Lionheart’ despite being an unmistakably Nigerian film, did not tick this particular box.

The disqualification of the Genevieve Nnaji’s produced film elicited concerns from renowned filmmakers across the globe, notably award winning filmmaker and director Ava DuVernay who queried the decision of the award organisation in a series of tweets.

“You disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever submission for Best International Feature because it’s in Lagos. But English is the official language of Nigeria. Are you barring this country from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language?” She tweets.

Nigerians have also taken to the social media platform to express their feelings about the disqualification. Senator Shehu Sani tweeted that the Academy reasons for disqualifying the film “only exposes the degree of their ignorance to the world outside of theirs, and their discriminatory and contemptuous views about African history and our ways.”

Nnaji, responding to the news in a tweet said that English language acts as “the bridge between the 500+languages that Is spoken in our country, thereby making us one Nigeria.”

She added that “we did not choose who colonised us. As ever, this film and many like it is proudly Nigerian.”

Reacting to the news, the Chairperson of the committee responsible for the submission iNgeria Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC) Chineze Anyaene said in a statement that “The budding Nigerian film industry is often faced with producing films with wide reach which often makes the recording dialogue predominantly English with non-English infusions in some cases.”

She said that henceforth, the committee intends to submit films which are predominantly foreign language – non-English recording dialogue.

“We are therefore urging filmmakers to shoot with intention of non-English recording dialogue as a key qualifying parameter to represent the country in the most prestigious award. The committee is working tirelessly in organising workshops, seminars and using other available media to create robust awareness on the guidelines and requirements for an International Feature Film entry. ‘Lionheart’ passed on other technical requirements from story, to sound and picture except for language as adjudged by the Academy screening matrix, which was a challenge for the committee at a time. This is an eye opener and step forward into growing a better industry.”