Outrage as Oscars disqualifies Nigeria’s entry

Nkem Owoh and Genevieve Nnaji in a scene in ’Lion Heart’
Nkem Owoh and Genevieve Nnaji in a scene in ’Lion Heart’

‘Lion Heart’, Nigeria’s first Oscars entry, has been disqualified from the race for the ‘Best International Feature Film’ category.

The Academy on Monday said the Genevieve Nnaji-directed movie, was disqualified because it violates the rule that entries in the category must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track.”

‘Lion heart’ is partially in the Igbo language but it is mostly in English.

Nnaji stars alongside Peter Edochie and Nkem Owoh in the film, which she also co-wrote with her producing partner, Chinny Onwugbenu.

Lionheart premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival and was acquired by Netflix for worldwide distribution.

The decision to disqualify the movie has however sparked outrage, with many saying English is the official language of Nigeria and hence it shouldn’t have been disqualified.

‘Rules and rules’

According to the Academy’s rules for the international feature film category, “an international film is defined as a feature-length motion picture (defined as over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track.”

READ ALSO: #Oscar 2020: Nigeria announces selection committee

Lionheart has just under 12 minutes of dialogue that is in the Igbo language native to Southeastern Nigeria, while the rest of the 94-minute picture is in English.

The film is not excluded from entering other Oscar categories, including consideration for the best picture.


Hollywood director, Ava DuVernay, and many others have argued that English is Nigeria’s official language.

In its attempt to encourage foreign language films, he asked if the Academy is not penalising international filmmakers operating in their country’s most commonly spoken language.

Nnaji, who also stars in the film, took to Twitter Monday night to defend her movie.

Elsewhere on Twitter, the reactions from Nigerians and foreigners are alike.

They criticise the Academy’s decision as well as pointing out Nigeria’s obvious historical colonial reasons for having English as a national language.

The founder of The Black List, Franklin Leonard, said, “Colonialism really is a bi..h.”

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Read some of the most viral tweets below.


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