Nigeria’s first film ever submitted to the Oscars has been disqualified from the race for the Best International Feature Film category.
In an email on Monday, the Academy said the Genevieve Nnaji directed movie, Lion Heart, was disqualified because it violates a rule that entries in the category must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track.”
Lionheart, in which Nnaji also stars, is partially in the Igbo language but it is mostly in English. .
The decision to disqualify it has however sparked outrage, with many saying English is the official language of Nigeria and hence it shouldn’t have been disqualified.
LionHeart which is not excluded from entering other Oscar categories including consideration for best picture, has just under 12 minutes of dialogue that is in the Igbo language native to Southeastern Nigeria, while the remaining 94-minutes is in English. With the disqualification, the number of films in contention for the award has dropped from 93 to 92.
However reacting to the disqualification on Twitter, Genevieve Nnaji wrote;
“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.” 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.”
American filmmaker who directed the Netflix drama miniseries When They See Us,
Ava DuVernay also reacted to the disqualification. She tweeted;
“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?”