Next year’s Academy Awards was supposed to be a big anticipated celebration for Nigeria. The country’s first-ever submission into the Best International Feature Film category was a huge step forward in film representation for the nation. With actress turned filmmaker Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut, Lionheart, this year’s nomination was poised to position Nigeria for an accolade, but unfortunately, the film was disqualified.
To be a contender in the Best International Feature Film category, which was previously called Best Foreign Language Film, the submissions must be in a dialect apart from English. Officially, the Academy requires “a predominantly non-English dialogue track” in order for consideration. Although Lionheart has scenes in the Igbo language, it is not qualifying because most of the film is in English. The film was not reviewed until recently by the Internal Feature Film Award Executive Committee, and upon viewing it, realized that the film was not in line with the standards of the category.
If the film had been reviewed earlier, they could have caught this well in advance of the Academy voters’ screening that was scheduled for Wednesday, November 6, of this week. Only on Monday, November 4, did they receive an email stating that Lionheart would no longer be considered for nomination in the category.
Although this disappointment occurred, it is important to recognize that the increased publicity around the film is not because the film is not worthy, but because of a technical error surrounding the ratio of English to the Igbo language in the film. The work of Genevieve Nnaji as a filmmaker has been acknowledge with distinction and that cannot be taken away.
Nnaji’s film Lionheart can be seen on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.