Motion picture academy disqualifies ‘Lionheart’ for having too much English dialogue.

‘Lionheart’ the 2018 film which was directed by Nollywood icon Genevieve Nnaji has been disqualified by the Academy from the 2020 Oscar race. 

‘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.  

It was revealed in October that the Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee (NOSC) had picked the movie as Nigeria’s submission to the Best International Feature Film category of the 2020 Oscars. 

It was the first film ever submitted to the Oscars by Nigeria.

'Too much English'

The Academy say Genevieve Nnaji's 'Lionheart' had too much English
The Academy say Genevieve Nnaji's 'Lionheart' had too much English

All hopes of making it to the final nominees have however been dashed as the Academy disqualified the movie from the Best International Feature Film category. 

As first reported by The Wrap, the Academy announced the disqualification of ‘Lionheart’ to voters in the category in an email on Monday, November 4, 2019. 

It has been revealed that ‘Lionheart’ was not vetted by the Academy’s International Feature Film Award Executive Committee when the NOSC first picked the film. 

After a recent viewing, the Academy deemed the film to have too much much English dialogue and disqualified it from the Best International Feature Film category which until this year was known as Best Foreign Language Film.

‘Lionheart’ is partially in the Igbo language of Nigeria but it is mostly in English. 

Genevieve reacts

Genevieve was not pleased with the disqualification and took to Twitter to express her feeling of disapproval. 

I am the director of Lionheart. This movie represents the way we speak as Nigerians,” she said in a series of tweets. 

“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 Nigerian.” 

The NOSC Chairperson Chineze Anyaene in a statement to Pulse urged 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.” 

Anyaene also revealed that the committee is working to organising workshops and seminars to create robust awareness on the guidelines and requirements for an International Feature Film Entry. 

Twitter reactions 

Reactions were pouring in on Twitter after the news emerged that 'Lionheart' had been disqualified from Oscars (Twitter)
Reactions were pouring in on Twitter after the news emerged that 'Lionheart' had been disqualified from Oscars (Twitter)
Twitter

News of the film’s disqualification have also drawn the ire of many on Twitter including American filmmaker Ava DuVernay

“You disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever submission for Best International Feature because its in English. But English is the official language of Nigeria,” she tweeted at the Academy. 

Are you barring this country from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language?” 

News of the film’s disqualification dominated conversations on Twitter Nigeria in the early hours of Tuesday, November 5.  

‘Lionheart’ was number three on Twitter Nigeria trends with ‘Oscar’ and ‘Academy’ among the top 10 trending items. 

‘Lionheart’ is a story of a woman-played by Genevieve- who steps in to run her father’s struggling company and keep it away from rival businessmen in a male-dominated environment. 

It premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and was released worldwide in January 2019 on Netflix. It is said to be the first Nigerian film to be acquired by Netflix.