• We all rejoiced when Nnaji’s directorial debut “Lionheart” was chosen to represent Nigeria in the Best International Feature Film category at the 2020 Oscars. 
  • It was the country’s first-ever submission for the highly coveted award. The excitement has been cut short as directed by the 2018 film has just been disqualified by the Academy from the 2020 Oscar race.
  • We look at what other Nigerian filmmakers can do to prevent future qualifications.

News broke that actress-turned-director Genevieve Nnaji’s ‘Lionheart’ had been disqualified by the Oscars on Monday, November 4, 2019.

According to the Academy Awards, officially and popularly known as the Oscars, the film violates an important requirement — entries in this category must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track.”

“Lionheart,” which tells the story of a woman trying to keep her father’s struggling company afloat in a male-dominated environment, is partially in the Igbo language but most of it is in English.

The disqualification came after the Academy’s International Feature Film Award Executive Committee recently viewed the movie and determined that it does not qualify in this category, formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film.

‘Lionheart’ was Genevieve’s directorial debut and she also starred in the film alongside popular Nollywood names like Nkem Owoh, Pete Edochie, Onyeka Onwenu, Kanayo O. Kanayo and Nigerian rapper Phyno.  [Instagram/GenevieveNnaji]
‘Lionheart’ was Genevieve’s directorial debut and she also starred in the film alongside popular Nollywood names like Nkem Owoh, Pete Edochie, Onyeka Onwenu, Kanayo O. Kanayo and Nigerian rapper Phyno. [Instagram/GenevieveNnaji]

Lionheart’s elimination from the Oscar race has reduced the number of films competing for the award to 92 entries and the number of female directors to 28.

ALSO READ: Lionheart is a remarkable display of rare Nollywood elegance

What other Nigerian filmmakers can do to prevent future rejections

The Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee (NOSC) has responded by admitting that they made a mistake in submitting "Lionheart" for Oscar consideration.

In a statement released today, November 5, 2019, the committee’s chairman, Chineze Anyaene 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 that are predominantly foreign language — non-English recording dialogue.

“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 a step forward into growing a better industry.”

The Nigeria Oscar Selection Committee has admitted they made a mistake in submitting Genevieve's 'Lionheart' for Oscar consideration.
The Nigeria Oscar Selection Committee has admitted they made a mistake in submitting Genevieve's 'Lionheart' for Oscar consideration.

The board also shared tips on how other filmmakers can ensure that their movies are eligible for the prestigious Academy Award.

“We are therefore urging filmmakers to shoot with the intention of non-English recording dialogue as a key qualifying parameter to represent the country in the most prestigious award,” the statement reads.

Other requirements for the Best International Feature Film category include:

  • The film must have been first released in the country submitting it, after which it must have been exhibited for a minimum of 7 consecutive days in a movie theatre.
  • The film must not be transmitted electronically or otherwise before it’s official release in the theatre.

The Oscars will be held on Sunday, February 9, 2020. The nominations will be announced on Monday, January 13, 2020, ahead of the event.