The body behind the Oscars has come under fire after banning Nigeria’s first submission for best international feature film.
Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart, which was acquired by Netflix, was disqualified by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences because it did not meet the criteria for the category, which was recently renamed from best foreign language film.
Submitted films must be predominantly in a foreign language, and Lionheart is mostly in English, apart from a small section which is in the Igbo language.
1/1 1/2 Thank you so much @ava❤️. 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. @TheAcademy https://t.co/LMfWDDNV3e
— Genevieve Nnaji MFR (@GenevieveNnaji1) November 4, 2019
The official language of Nigeria, a former British colony, is English, although the country has more than 500 native languages.
Nnaji, who directed and starred in Lionheart, was joined by award-winning director Ava DuVernay in criticising the move.
Nnaji said: “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 Nigeria.”
DuVernay, director of Selma and A Wrinkle in Time, addressed the Academy directly in a tweet.
She said: “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 is about a Nigerian woman named Adaeze who attempts to keep her family’s business afloat.
Lionheart is streaming on Netflix.