“Lionheart” which is Genevieve Nnaji’s first directional debut was submitted to race alongside 92 other films in the Best International Feature Film category.
However, in an email sent to voters on Monday, the Academy announced the “Lionheart” was ineligible becausr of it excessive use of the English language which violates the Academy’s rule for entries into the Best International Feature category.
For a film to be eligible for the Best International Feature Film category, it has to have a predominantly non-English dialogue track. In it’s 94 minutes run, “Lionheart” has less than 12 minutes of Igbo language.
Before now, the Best International Feature Film category was known as Best Foreign Language Film Award.
Reacting to this news, American filmmaker Ava Duvernay took to her Twitter page to criticize the Academy’s decision:
“To @TheAcademy, 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?”
Meanwhile, Genevieve has reacted to the disqualification in her response to Duvernay’s tweet:
“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
“2/2 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. @TheAcademy”
In Lionheart, Adaeze—the only daughter (a symbolic position in the Eastern Nigerian’s family) is celebrated and entrusted with running a multi-billion Naira company and would thrive especially one usually in a male-dominated industry.