The Academy Awards, more popularly known as the Oscars has come under fire after Nigeria‘s first film to enter for the award was disqualified from the Best International Feature Film category because it featured too much English dialogue.
Lionheart – which premiered a September at the Toronto International Film Festival – is a Netflix original, and the first to come from the African country with diverse language but mainly uses English after colonization.
In an email on Monday to voters for the 2020 Oscars, it was revealed that the movie directed by Genevieve Nnaji, that includes some dialogue in Nigeria’s Igbo language, would not be screened on Wednesday at an event for qualifying pictures.
The Academy has renamed the Best Foreign Language Film category to the Best International Film. However the rebranding for 2020 did not include an update in the rule which states a film must have ‘a predominantly non-English dialogue track’.
Film fans have asked why the Academy’s International Feature Film Award Executive Committee did not vet the movie before the qualifiers were announced October 7.
‘This movie represents the way we speak as Nigerians,’ Genevieve Nnaji tweeted. ‘This includes English which acts as a bridge between the 500+ languages spoken in our country; thereby making us #OneNigeria.’
The news of Lionheart’s disqualification meant Honduran entry, Blood, Passion, and Coffee was to screen solo at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood on Wednesday.
Speaking about her submission to the category where France’s Les Miserables is currently up for the prize out of 91 others, she added: ‘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.’