The Academy has disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever Oscar entry from the Best International Feature Film category, citing that the film violates the language rules of the category.
Lionheart, Netflix’s first-ever Nigerian original film, was the country’s submission for the category. The movie, created by Nollywood megastar Genevieve Nnaji, is partially in the Nigerian language of Igbo, but most of the film is in English. The Academy disqualified the film based on the rule that entries in the Best International Feature Film category must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track.”
English is an official national language in Nigeria.
Director Ava DuVernay responded to the controversy by calling out the Academy on whether it planned on barring Nigeria “from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language?”
Nnaji responded with her own tweets: “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 One Nigeria,” she wrote.
With Nigeria’s disqualification, the number of films competing for the award is now 92 from what had been a record 93 entries. Although it had been submitted by Nigeria, Lionheart had not been vetted by the Academy’s International Feature Film Award Executive Committee in advance of the October 7 announcement of qualifying films. It was recently viewed and deemed unable to qualify.
The film follows a woman, played by Nnaji, who tries to keep her father’s struggling company afloat in a male-dominated environment.