The Oscars is already embroiled in its first race row of the season as it bans Nigeria’s film submission – because it’s in English.
The Academy has disqualified Nigeria’s film from the Oscar race in the Best International Feature Film category.
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay , 47, has spoken out against the submission axing and publicly voiced her complaint to The Oscars.
Films in this category must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track”, however, Lionheart is largely in English, with an 11-minute section in the Igbo language.
Ava slammed the disqualification and pointed out that English happens to be the official language of Nigeria on account of its history as a British colony.
The American filmmaker shared her frustration with her 2.3 million followers.
She wrote: “To The Academy, 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?”
Lionheart was the first film ever submitted to the Oscars by Nigeria and director Genevieve Nnaji said the film represented how Nigerians communicate.
Nnaji thanked Ava for her support and announced on Twitter :
“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 one Nigeria.”
The director continued:
“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.”
According to The Wrap , The Academy announced the disqualification to voters in the category in an email on Monday
The film was scheduled to screen for voters on Wednesday in a double bill with the Honduran entry, but it’s viewing has now been cancelled.
Lionheart, which is currently streaming on Netflix , is about a Nigerian woman trying to keep her father’s company going in a society dominated by men.
Frontrunners in the category include South Korea’s Parasite, Spain’s Pain and Glory and France’s Les Miserables.
The Best Foreign Language Oscar was first awarded in 1956, and the name of the recognition changed in 2019 to Best International Feature Film.