The surprise disqualification of Genevieve Nnaji’s movie, ‘Lionheart’ by the 2020 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Oscars, has set the Nigerian movie industry otherwise known as Nollywood apart with many practitioners pointing accusing fingers on the Nigeria Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC0, following the selection process of the entry, which they described as shrouded in secrecy. The movie, which is Nigeria’s first-ever submission for the Oscars in the Best International Feature film category, was disqualified prior to screening for Academy voters in the international category on Wednesday.
According to the Academy, nominees in its Best International Feature Film Category must have a predominantly non-English dialogue track, and ‘Lionheart’ despite being an unmistakably Nigerian film, did not tick this particular box.
The stakeholders in the Nigerian movie industry have taken different positions on the ugly development. While some were critical, others blamed the local selection committee for its shortsightedness and inability to keep to the rules of the game, which is currently dominating discourse on two WhatsApp groups, Film4Film and Filmic as well as Twitter.
However, while reacting to the disqualification of her film, via Twitter on Tuesday, Genevieve said ‘Lionheart represents the way we speak as Nigerians.
“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.”
“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,” the star-actress tweeted.
Omotola Jalade Ekeinde who’s one of the Academy’s 928 members, has described the development as regrettable, adding that “ “We have to go by the rules for now.”
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Meanwhile, reacting to this recent development, the NOSC Chairperson Chineze Anyaene in a statement yesterday said: “The budding Nigerian film industry is often faced with producing films with wide reach which often makes the recording dialogue predominantly English with non-English infusions in some cases.
Going forward, the committee intends to submit films which are predominantly foreign language – non-English recording dialogue. We are therefore, urging filmmakers to shoot with intention of non-English recording dialogue as a key qualifying parameter to represent the country in the most prestigious award.”
“The committee is working tirelessly in organizing workshops, seminars and using other available media to create robust awareness on the guidelines and requirements for an International Feature Film Entry.
Lionheart passed on other technical requirements from 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 step forward into growing a better industry.”
“Lionheart,” in which Genevieve plays a woman who tries to keep her father’s struggling company afloat in a male-dominated environment, is currently available on Netflix. Frontrunners in the category include South Korea’s “Parasite,” Spain’s “Pain and Glory” and France’s “Les Miserables.”
The shortlist of 10 films will be announced on Monday, December 16, 2019, while nominations for the 92nd Oscars® will be announced on Monday, January 13, 2020.
The 92nd and Oscarsis expected to hold on Sunday, February 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood.
Kelechi Eke, film maker
Kelechi Eke, a US-based Nigerian film maker and founder, The African Film Festival, TAFF, Genevieve has worked so hard and doesn’t deserve what happened.
“I am honestly devastated by the news. But we must learn to tell ourselves the truth as Nigerians. We aren’t beyond mistakes. When we err let’s admit it and move on. We blew this one. The film being almost 100% in English Language disqualifies it. My confusion is why is it an issue this far into the competition? I’m still proud of Genevieve and her accomplishments but it seems like selection error.
However, that tells me that if LionHeart was done in Igbo or Pidgin, it would have had a chance of winning.”
Alex Eyengho, film maker
I put the blame squarely at the doorsteps of the Nigerian OSCARS Committee and the Producer/Director of Lionheart. They simply did not follow laid down entry rules set out by OSCARS. There error of omission or commission have manifestly put Nollywood and indeed Nigeria to public odious and embarrassment.
That category is for films made largely (95%) in indigenous languages. 95% of Lionheart was shot in English language!
It is bad enough that the producers submitted the film for that category, it is preposterous that the committee accepted it and went ahead to submit it as Nigeria’s entry!
For causing us this embarrassment, the committee members, who in the first place were not transparently selected, should resign honourably and give way to more competent hands to handle things from next year.
The central OSCARS in the USA should know that the OSCARS committee in Nigeria failed woefully for whatever reasons. There are not a few Nigerian indigenous language films out there that meet the OSCARS selection criteria. It was as if some or most members of the committee wanted Lionheart to be submitted at all costs. Lying to get honour always ends up in disgrace.
Sadly, this disgrace was brought on the entire Nollywood and indeed Nigeria by some or all members of the selection committee here in Nigeria.
My humble opinion is that we should dwell more on the positive that this experience presents. The first SpaceX never lifted off at the first blast. It plunged earthbound after 33seconds.
Today they are the biggest private contractor to NASA. They are defining new frontiers in space exploration. Just as we have started being listed for the OSCARS, we must surly improve next time. The good news is that a product from Nigeria made good headlines by being submitted in the first instance.
Let’s us encourage ourselves collectively and move on. It is a new day in the industry.
I do not even think the big concern is for Genevieve. A lot of responsibility is on the selection committee. I am very mindful, not to frontally attack the committee but at the initial, too many “things” were unintentionally shrouded in secrecy.
I believe that to meet up with the important aspects- three items in the criteria comes to the fore. Technical quality, Indigenous language and Impact. My estimation will be that it may be a bit of a task, meeting up with these regulations except a filmmaker planned for it from get- go.
Going forward, the committee should encourage more practitioners to aim for this entry even as we keep the money – in commercial viability of our movies in focus.