Nollywood has in recent times received applauds and commendations thanks to the continuous growth in the industry. Movies like Niyi Akinmolayan’s ‘The wedding party 2, ‘Mokalik’ directed by Kunle Afolayan and Genevieve’s ‘Lion Heart’ , a predominantly English movie which is currently streaming on Netflix. The comedy ‘Lion Heart was the first-ever Nigerian Movie submitted for Best International Feature Oscar consideration ; a freshly renamed international feature film category, pitifully was disqualified by the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences for having too much dialogue in English .
The movie was starred and directed by Genevieve Nnaji ; who is called the Julia Robert of Nigeria. The story line tells of a young woman trying to keep her father’s company afloat in a male-dominated world.
“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.
Although this isn’t the first time the academy has disqualified a foreign film from consideration for having too much English dialogue; in recent years, the 2015 Afghan film “Utopia” and the 2007 Israeli movie “The Band’s Visit” were disqualified for the same reason. Still, the disqualification of “Lionheart” which, ironically, follows the academy’s decision earlier this year to change the name of the category from best foreign-language film to best international feature film, struck a sour note with at least one high-powered Hollywood figure. American Director Ava DuVernay tweeted her dismay, noting that English is the official language of Nigeria. Most Nigerians expressed their disappointment, majority stating that English is our official language.
Genevieve Nnaji ,the director and main actor in the movie reacted to the disqualification on Twitter said that ‘The movie represents the way we speak as Nigerians ,which includes English which acts as a bridge between the 500+ languages spoken in our country; thereby making us #OneNigeria.
It won’t be easy for all Nigerians to relate with and appreciate the movie the way they did, if our official language wasn’t predominant. We obviously didn’t choose who colonized us, so the choice to disqualify the movie seems biased.