The Academy disqualifies Lionheart, Nigeria's first-ever Oscar submission
The film failed to pass the Academy criteria, which states that a submission must feature a predominantly non-English track
Lionheart, Nigeria's first-ever submission in the Best International Film category of the Academy Awards, has ended in controversy as the film was rejected on the grounds of being "largely in English."
Directed by Genevieve Nnaji, who also stars in the film, Lionheart is partially in the Igbo language of Nigeria, but failed to pass the Academy criteria, which states that a submission must feature a predominantly non-English track.
American filmmaker Ava Duvernay called out the Academy for this decision, and in a tweet, said, "You disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever submission for Best International Feature because it's 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?"
Thanking Ava for her support, Nnaji said, "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 'One Nigeria'." She added, "It’s no different to how French connects communities in former French colonies. We did not choose who colonised us. This film, as many like it, is proudly Nigerian."
However, many netizens argued that the Academy was well within its rights to disqualify the film as the rules were pretty straight forward. Whether this open up a debate about the structure of the Awards itself, remains to be seen.
Incidentally, the Best International Film category was till last year called the Best Foreign Language film.