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The Echoes of Disqualifying a Nigerian Drama from Participation in the Oscar Academy

The Nigerian drama called Lionheart can be called the country’s debut in the worldwide arena. Not only was it the first Nigerian Netflix original movie, but also the state’s first-time entry in the Oscars.

Yet, what was supposed to be the nation’s immense pride, turned out as bringing a flurry of discontent. Soon after the entry at the 92nd Academy Awards, the movie was disqualified.

What were the reason and the impact of such a decision? Let’s figure this out!

The Echoes of Disqualifying a Nigerian Drama from Participation in the Oscar Academy
Oscar Statue // Photo Credit: Freepik.com

Lionheart: About the Movie

Whether you are just interested in learning more details about this film or were assigned to do a review having little idea on how to write a movie review, let us give you a few more details on it.

The notorious motion picture debuted in September 2018. It was first shown at the international movie festival held in Toronto. Later, since 4 January 2019, it became publicly available on Netflix.

The drama was produced by Chinny Onwugbenu. The movie’s director and, at the same time, its main star, is a country’s award-winning actress, director, and producer Genevieve Nnaji.

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What’s the plot? The movie tells us the story of a family. A farther Chief Ernest Obiagu (portrayed by Pete Edochie) was running a business in the past. He can no longer run a company due to health problems.

His daughter, Adaeze Obiagu (Genevieve Nnaji), is the main character of the movie. She wants to get in charge of the company instead of her father. However, Obiagu wants his son Godswill (Nkem Owoh) to take his place.

The plot shows us how brother and sister are working hard and collaborating to save the dad’s company from debts. They try not to lose the entity to another businessman Igwe Pascal (Kanayo O. Kanayo).

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The Reasons for Disqualification

To begin with, it is worth mentioning that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences renamed one of its Oscar categories last year.

What was previously called the Best Foreign-Language Film is now referred to as the Best International Feature Film. Yet, the rules for qualification have not been changed.

Given its new name, this category has become somewhat confusing. Although it is no longer the Best Foreign-Language Film, the instructions assume that all submissions still have to include mostly non-English dialogues.

This is exactly what served the ground for the disqualification of the drama.

Lionheart has entered Oscar’s category of the Best International Feature Film along with 91 other pictures and was disqualified for non-eligibility.

Although it has been produced outside of the US (which is another requirement for this category), it only has less than 12 minutes of dialogue in a foreign language Igbo. For the rest of the film, characters are primarily speaking English. Thus, the award’s committee has marked it ineligible.

Public Reaction to the Disqualification of Nigerian First-Ever Oscar Entry

The echoes of disqualifying the Nigerian drama have swept all around the world. The awards authorities’ decision to mark it as ineligible for the category has been seen by many as a sparking criticism.

One of the first to express disappointment was Ava DuVernay, an American award-winning filmmaker and distributor. Ava has shown support to Nigeria and people who participated in making Lionheart. This is the dissatisfaction with the Academy’s decision in her own words:

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“… 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?”

Ava’s impartial commentary has brought about the storm of indignation. The next one who picked up the idea was the film’s actress and director, Genevieve Nnaji.

In her Twitter, she claimed that the movie clearly represents the Nigerian reality. English makes the most of the dialogue due to the fact that it is the country’s official language, and that’s the way the people here speak.

In another tweet, Nnaji also highlights that Nigeria has been a British colony. This explains having English as a national language. The actress highlighted that there was no chance of choosing who colonized them.

The actress claims that the movie, though mostly in English, is genuinely Nigerian.

Among others who commented on the unfairness of the act of disqualification was Nigerian artist and academic Mukhtara Yusuf, who said:

“This is the reality of Nigeria as it exists now. And the film wasn’t created to rectify the realities and consequences of colonialism.”

The Echoes of Disqualifying a Nigerian Drama from Participation in the Oscar Academy
Movie tape // Photo credit: unsplash.com

Later, lots of other people from Nigeria, as well as all around the globe, have joined the movement expressing dissatisfaction. You may think it should’ve somehow influenced the award’s committee.

However, despite the growing dissatisfactory reaction from the public, the Academy itself remains uncompromising. They state that the objective of this category is to recognize pictures created outside of the US in foreign languages.

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