Nigeria’s entry for the international feature film Oscar category, “Lionheart” was disqualified on Monday because it contained too much English dialogue. The film which was directed by Genevieve Nnaji has been disqualified from the Oscar race in the Best International Feature Film category, dropping the number of films competing for the award to 92 from what had been a record 93 entries.
The film, Nigeria’s first-ever submission in the Best International Feature Film category, is largely in English, which makes it ineligible to compete.
Lionheart which is Nigeria’s first-ever submission to the Academy Awards had the likes of Genevieve Nnaji, Pete Edochie and Nkem Owoh in the film. It was written by Genevieve and her producing partner Chinny Onwugbenu.
Lionheart premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival and was acquired by Netflix for worldwide distribution.
According to the Academy’s rules for the international feature film category, “an international film is defined as a feature-length motion picture (defined as over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track.” Lionheart has just under 12 minutes of dialogue that is in the Igbo language native to Southeastern Nigeria, while the rest of the 94-minute pic is in English. The film is not excluded from entering other Oscar categories, including consideration for best picture, Hollywood reported had stated.
The decision was criticized by Nnaji, who said on Twitter, “This movie represents the way we speak as Nigerians. This includes English which acts as a bridge between the 500+ languages spoken in our country; thereby making us #OneNigeria.” She added, “It’s no different to how French connects communities in former French colonies. We did not choose who colonized us. As ever, this film and many like it, is proudly Nigerian.“
DuVernay also slammed the decision in a tweet, saying “To @TheAcademy, You disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever submission for Best International Feature because its in English. But English is the official language of Nigeria. Are you barring this country from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language?”
Franklin Leonard, founder of The Black List, added, “Colonialism really is a bitch.”