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2020 Oscar Awards: Nigeria’s Lionheart disqualified for “too much English” Dialogue

Nigeria's first-ever submission for best international feature Oscar consideration, the comedy “Lionheart,” has been disqualified by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for having too much dialogue in English.

Nigeria’s first-ever submission for best international feature Oscar consideration, the comedy “Lionheart,” has been disqualified by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for having too much dialogue in English.

According to TheWrap, The Academy announced the disqualification of “Lionheart” to voters in the category in an email on Monday, 4th of November.

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

“Lionheart” which premiered in Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2018, has only 12 minutes of dialogue that is in the Igbo language-native to Southeastern Nigeria, while the rest of the 94-minute pictures 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.

“In April 2019, we announced that the name of the foreign language film category changed to international feature film,” the academy said in a statement. “We also confirmed that the rules for the category would not change. The intent of the award remains the same — to recognize accomplishment in films created outside of the United States in languages other than English.”

The decision of the academy to disqualify the film has been criticised by many Nigerians and fellow actors on Twitter. Genevieve Nnaji who directed the comedy called out the Oscar committee on its decision stating that the rejection based on language violated the recognition of English as Nigeria’s Official language.

“This movie represents the way we speak like Nigerians. This includes English which acts as a bridge between the 500+ languages spoken in our country; thereby making us #OneNigeria.” She added, “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.”

Other Twitter users have also said that the disqualification of the film is one of the recent negative impacts of colonialism in Africa.

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 on 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.”

“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 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; the 2015 Afghan film “Utopia” and the 2007 Israeli movie “The Band’s Visit” were disqualified for the same reason.

About the author


Stanton is a passionate digital strategist who is keen to learn and contribute to the growth and development of the growing men and women, especially in Liberia. He has professional skills in Online Strategy Formulation, Implementing Digital Solutions, Brand Building Online & Social Media Marketing and Advertising.


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