Cape Town — Nigerians have woken up to find that Lionheart, the 2018 film which was directed by Nollywood actress and director Genevieve Nnaji, has been disqualified by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from the 2020 Oscar race.
According to The Wrap, the movie violates an Academy rule that entries in the best international feature film category must have "a predominantly non-English dialogue track." Lionheart is largely in English, with an 11-minute section in the Igbo language.
The movie was the first film ever submitted to the Oscars by Nigeria.
Nnaji, who also stars in the film, has criticized the Academy's decision to disqualify the film in a tweet, saying that the language in the film represents how Nigerians speak. She adds English acts as a bridge between over 500 languages spoken by Nigerians.
@GenevieveNnaji1 - I am the director of Lionheart. 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. 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. @TheAcademy
U.S. director Ava DuVernay has sharply criticized the Academy, pointing out that English is Nigeria's official language.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?"
Lionheart tells a story about a woman who tries to keep her father's struggling company afloat in a male-dominated environment. It is currently available on Netflix.