Only a few weeks ago, Lionheart, a film directed by iconic Nollywood actor, Genevieve Nnaji, was being praised for its nomination by the Nigeria Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC) as the nation’s submission to the International Feature Film category of the 2020 Oscars.
Every year, each country outside the United States is expected to submit one non-English speaking film (including films in Pidgin English, which must be subtitled like any other language film are also considered under this category), a criteria which Lionheart was seen to have met, as the film’s language largely includes Igbo. However, this morning, news broke of the disqualification of the film from the submission list, as the film’s dialogue is predominantly in English language.
Following the outrage on social media and criticism of the Oscars by filmmakers and influencers all over the world, the chairperson of the NOSC, Chineze Anyaene, released a statement, saying, “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.”
Anyaene also pointed out that Nigerian filmmakers have an important role to play in ensuring their films are eligible for international film nominations.
“Going forward, 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. […]
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.”
Amongst the films still in the running for the Best International Feature Film award are France’s Les Misérables, The Chamermaid (Mexico), Knucle City (South Africa) and Gully Boy (India).