by Linda Ikeji
Nigeria’s 2020 Oscar entry ‘LionHeart’ was disqualified on Monday November 4, for having too much English dialogue.
The movie which is Nigeria’s first-ever submission to the Academy Awards, was submitted for the international feature film Oscar category. The Academy’s description of an international feature film “is a feature-length motion picture (defined as over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track.”
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?”