Nigeria’s first-ever submission for best international feature Oscar consideration, the comedy “Lionheart,” has been disqualified by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for having too much dialogue in English.
Directed by and starring Genevieve Nnaji, “Lionheart” earned strong reviews, but the film, which is currently streaming on Netflix, is mostly in English, running afoul of an academy rule that entries in the freshly renamed international feature film category must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track.” All but roughly 11 minutes of the 95-minute film — about a woman trying to keep her father’s company afloat in a male-dominated world — are in English.
“Lionheart” was one of 10 African films officially submitted for Oscar consideration this year, a record for the continent. With the disqualification, the number of films in contention for the award has dropped from 93 to 92. The film is still eligible to be considered in other Oscar categories.
This isn’t the first time the academy has disqualified a foreign film from consideration for having too much English dialogue; in recent years, the 2015 Afghan film “Utopia” and the 2007 Israeli movie “The Band’s Visit” were disqualified for the same reason.
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? https://t.co/X3EGb01tPF— Ava DuVernay (@ava) November 4, 2019
Director Ava DuVernay tweeted her dismay, noting that English is the official language of Nigeria.
1/1 1/2 Thank you so much @ava❤️.— Genevieve Nnaji MFR (@GenevieveNnaji1) November 4, 2019
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 https://t.co/LMfWDDNV3e
In her reaction, Nnaji tweeted in response to the academy’s decision that her movie “represents the way we speak as Nigerians.
Other Nigerians have also reacted over the disqualification.
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