Nigeria’s first-ever entry for the Oscars, “Lionheart,” has been disqualified by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for having too much dialogue in English.
Directed by and starring Genevieve Nnaji, “Lionheart” has earned strong reviews from critics and performed well in cinemas worldwide. “Lionheart” was nominated in the Oscar category of the Best International Feature Film category.
“Lionheart” was one of 10 African films officially submitted for Oscar consideration this year, a record for the continent. With the disqualification, the number of films in contention for the award has dropped from 93 to 92.
The academy’s decision, which was communicated via email to Oscar voters, was first reported by The Wrap.
The Academy’s criteria for best international feature film category states that it awards film’s made outside the United States with a predominantly non-English dialogue. The film is still eligible to be considered in other Oscar categories.
This isn’t the first time the academy has disqualified a foreign film from consideration for having too much English dialogue. Most recently the 2015 Afghan film “Utopia” and the 2007 Israeli movie “The Band’s Visit” were disqualified for the same reason.
This action has sparked different reactions from prominent individuals in Hollywood.
Director Ava DuVernay tweeted her dismay, stating that English is the official language of Nigeria.
Genevieve Nnaji tweeted in response to the academy’s decision that her movie “represents the way we speak as Nigerians. This includes English, which acts as a bridge between the 500+ languages spoken in our country. … We did not choose who colonized us. As ever, this film and many like it is proudly Nigerian.”