The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has disqualified Nigeria’s “Lionheart” as the nation’s contender for the Oscar in the Best International Feature Film category.
The film, directed by and starring award-winning Nigerian actress Genevieve Nnaji, was initially one of 92 films submitted in the category. But the film was withdrawn Monday after the Academy ruled that it didn’t meet the requirements for the award.
Films in the category must be produced outside the United States with a predominantly non-English dialogue track, according to the Academy’s rules.
Most of “Lionheart” is in English with just under 12 minutes of dialogue in the Igbo language, primarily spoken in eastern Nigeria, making it ineligible.
“Lionheart,” Nigeria’s first Netflix original film, is about a Nigerian woman named Adaeze, portrayed by Nnaji, trying to keep her family’s transportation business together.
Nnaji expressed her disappointment on Twitter over the Academy’s decision.
According to the actress, the film represents how Nigerians communicate and the country should be able to compete for an Oscar in its official language — English.
“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 wrote.
Reacting to the news, the Nigeria Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC) in a statement said it will only submit films with non-English dialogue in the future for consideration by the academy.
“Lionheart passed on other technical requirements from the story, to sound and picture except for language as adjudged by the Academy screening matrix, which was a challenge for the committee at a time. This is an eye-opener and steps forward into growing a better industry,” said NOSC chairman Chineze Anyaene in the statement.
The 12-member committee was put together to select Nigeria’s entry in the Best International Feature Film category at the 92nd Academy Awards set for February 9, 2020.
Award-winning filmmaker Ava DurVernay joined others on social media to express their disappointment in the film’s disqualification.
“Are you barring this country from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language?” DurVernay wrote.