Not long ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences stirred up some major controversy when it was announced that the Nigerian movie Lionheart was disqualified from the Best International Feature Film Oscar category. Now the Academy has sparked even more controversy, with Hollywood Reporter announcing they also disqualified the movie Joy from the same category.
Joy, made in Austria, follows the story of a Nigerian sex worker named Joy trying to survive in the city of Vienna. Written and directed by Sudabeh Mortezai, Joy made its debut at the Venice Film Festival, and is currently available on Netflix. Austria submitted 42 movies, including Joy to the Academy to be entered in the International Feature category but, just like Lionheart, it was disqualified for featuring too much English. According to Deadline the film’s spoken dialogue is a mix of German, Pidgin, and English, but the movie apparently has enough English to disqualify it.
The Academy explained their reason for disqualifying the movie to the Hollywood Reporter as followed:”As we do every year, the Academy is in the process of reviewing the films submitted for the International Feature Film category to determine whether they meet our eligibility rules. The film Joy, submitted by Austria, was just reviewed and is ineligible because only 33% of the dialogue is non-English.”
The 2020 Oscars will be the first year that this Oscar category, previously titled the Best Foreign Language Film, will be retitled Best International Feature Film. Since the category’s new name no longer mentions “foreign language,” one would think that a movie could still qualify even if the dialogue was in English. Perhaps in the future the Academy will update its rules, but for now it looks like Joy and Lionheart will remain disqualified.