Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut, “Lionheart” has been disqualified from the list of the movies nominated for the Best International Feature Film category in the Oscar Awards. The reason the movie was dropped was that it has too many dialogues in English.
This is because the Academy’s criterion for Best International Feature Film category is that the award is for movies made outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue.
With Lionheart’s disqualification, the numbers of movies nominated for the award has been reduced to 92. Also, the disqualification reduced the number of female directors in the category to 28. The movie which was scheduled to screen for the Academy voters in the international category on Wednesday was announced to voters to have been disqualified via an email on Monday.
The decision by Oscar caused an uproar from different quarters, with many condemning the decision. Among those who vented their displeasure on the matter online was the award-winning American filmmaker, Ava DuVernay.
In her tweet, she said:
“To @the Academy, you disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever submission for Best International feature because it is 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?”
Genevieve Nnaji replied DuVernay’s tweet with “Thank you so much @Ava. I am the director of Lionheart. 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. @TheAcademy.”
Interestingly, Nigeria’s Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC) has on Tuesday, responded to the Disqualification of the movie from the 92nd Academy Awards saying that nominees in the Best International Feature must have a predominantly non-English dialogue track and Lionheart, though a wonderful movie falls below that criterion. The chairperson of NOSC Chineze Anyaene says:
“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.”
“Going forward, the committee intends to submit films that are predominantly foreign language – non-English recording dialogue. We are, therefore, urging filmmakers to shoot with the 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 organizing 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 the 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 steps forward into growing a better industry.”
Lionheart was produced in 2018 by Chinny Onwugbenu and was directed by Genevieve Nnaji. Netflix acquired the film on 7 September 2018.
With the acquisition, Lionheart became the first Netflix original film produced in Nigeria. Lionheart premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada.
The movie featured Musicians Phyno and Peter Okoye (Psquare) who made their first acting debut. Some of the best brains in Nollywood were cast in the movie. They include Pete Edochie, Genevieve Nnaji, Ngozie Ezeonu, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Jemima Osunde, Onyeka Onwenu and many others.