Nigeria’s first-ever film submission into the Oscars was disqualified because it included too much English – the country’s official language.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences denied the submission of “Lionheart” for best international film because it fell short of the non-English dialogue quota. The gag is, due to the country being colonized by the British in 1901, English is now the nation’s official language.
”Lionheart” premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival and was Netflix’s first Nollywood acquisition. The 95-minute film contains about 10 minutes of Nigeria’s Igbo language.
However, the Academy instructs that international film submissions must be made outside of the U.S. and have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track.” New York Post reports this is the first year the Academy has titled the category “International Feature Film,” an amendment to the previous “Best Foreign Language” title from previous years. Reports say “Lionheart” would more than likely take the gold in that category; however, it can still be submitted in another.
The film stars and is directed by Nollywood star #GenevieveNnaji. The story centers on a woman’s mission to control her family’s transportation company after her father steps down due to health issues and passes the reigns to his eccentric brother.
The news about the film being denied circled around the internet with celebrities and the film’s creators commenting on the Academy’s negligence. “We did not choose who colonized us,” Nnaji tweeted. “As ever, this film and many like it is proudly Nigerian.”
Filmmaker and film distributor #AvaDuVernay tweeted against the Academy’s decision 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?” In turn, the Academy released a statement about the decision, which said, “The intent of the award remains the same — to recognize accomplishment in films created outside of the United States in languages other than English.”