Reactions tail ‘Lionheart’ disqualification from Oscar 2020
Mixed reactions have continue to trail the disqualification of Genevieve Nnaji’s 2018 ‘Lionheart’ by the Academy from the 2020 Oscar on the grounds of containing “too much English dialogue”.
The disqualification as reported was conveyed in an email to voters for the category.
According to the rules by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, “an international film is defined as a feature-length motion picture (defined as over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track.”
Lionheart has just less than 12 minutes of dialogue that is in the Igbo language, while the rest of the 95 minute feature is in English.
This action by the organizers has attracted concerns from movie producers across the globe via their social media, with major voices like American filmmaker and distributor, the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of more than $100m in 2016, Ava DuVernay, speaking up and criticizing the academy about the disqualification on social media, shortly after the announcement.
“You disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever submission for Best International Feature because it’s in English,” Ava Duvernay tweeted.
“But English is the official language of Nigeria. Are you barring this country from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language?”
In response, Genevieve stated: “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.”
She went on to say: “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.@TheAcademy.”
On Facebook, Ghanaian film director and producer, Leila Djansi, said that Genevieve should not play victim because she failed to follow the rules of the Academy.
“The fact that folks are whining as it the film would have made the shortlist has me flabbergasted,” wrote Djansi.
“Hype is a drug! African filmmakers, if you want to enter your film in the Oscars, make it for that purpose and follow the rules. We have so many languages whether English is your official language or not. What state/region is your story set in? Use that language.”
She said there are many local languages she could choose from, adding that African filmmakers should “learn a little bit of your neighbours’ language.”
“Leave your colonial master alone. He’s gone. You’re free. Now, choose!”
Film producer, Chris Ihidero, tweeted: “Kuku come and blame Genevieve for not making her film in line with Oscar nomination requirements. I thought you were supposed to select according to the rules and not select any film found wanting. But of course, can’t own up to own failings. Wouldn’t be Nigerian to do so. This makes it look like it’s the industry that needs education on Academy Awards selection.”
In a statement released by the committee’s chairman, Chineze Anyaene, the nominees in its Best International Feature Film Category must have a predominantly non-English dialogue track.
“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,” the statement read.
“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’s reaction came barely 24 hours after the news of ‘Lionheart’ getting a big NO from the Oscars hit the Internet.
‘Lionheart’, in which Genevieve plays Adaeze, a woman who tries to keep her family’s transportation business afloat after her father suffers a heart attack, is Genevieve’s directorial debut. The movie stars Genevieve alongside popular actors like Nkem Owoh, Pete Edochie, Onyeka Onwenu, Kanayo O. Kanayo and Nigerian rapper Phyno.
It was revealed that ‘Lionheart’ was not vetted by the Academy’s International Feature Film Award Executive Committee when the NOSC first picked the film and was the first film ever submitted to the Oscars by Nigeria since after approval and subsequent inauguration of the NOSC in February 2014.
The newly constituted Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee comprises old and young Nollywood stakeholders. The members include Mildred Okwo, Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Ngozi Okafor, Charles Novia, Abba Makama, Bruce Ayonote, Ramsey Nouah, Chioma Ude, Shaibu Husseini, Adetokunbo “DJ Tee” Odubawo and CJ Obasi.
Nigeria joined 82 other countries contesting for the International Feature Film’ category at the Oscars in 2014.