Oscar Academy disqualifies Nigeria’s entry ‘Lionheart’

Nigeria’s entry for the international feature film Oscar category was disqualified on Monday because it contained too much English dialogue, leading to backlash from its filmmaker, Nigerian actor-director Genevieve Nnaji, as well as from fellow helmer Ava DuVernay.

Oscar Academy disqualifies Nigeria’s entry ‘Lionheart’

According to the Academy the film does not meet the language requirement necessary for inclusion in the category since it was filmed mostly in English. Despite the film having some Igbo parts, an Academy rule—which states that films must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track” in order to be considered for the category—makes it ineligible.

The decision comes as a disappointment considering it was Nigeria’s first ever entry to the Oscars and it was one of the record-breaking 29 films out of 93 originally submitted this year that were directed by women. There were a record-breaking 10 films from the continent submitted this year, including Senegal’s Atlantics and Ghana’s Azali.

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.

Read tweets below.

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