The Academy Awards have once again become the center of a major controversy for disqualifying the Nigerian movie Lionheart from next year’s Best International Feature Film Oscar category. The reason why Lionheart was disqualified is because the movie apparently contains too much English, a reasoning that has already sparked major outrage online.
You see, the Academy requires movies to be primarily in a language other than English in order to be nominated for the Best International Feature Film category. And, while some parts of Lionheart are in Igbo, a language native to Nigera, most of the movie is in English, which is actually the country’s official language.
Lionheart, the directorial debut of Nigerian actress turned director Genevieve Nnaji, sees her play a young woman named Adaeze Obiagu, who must take over her father’s company after he falls ill. Adaeze is also forced to work alongside her uncle to save the company from debt. The movie can currently be viewed on Netflix According to the New York Times Lionheart was Nigeria’s first ever Oscar submission.
Genevieve Nnaji responded to the news on Twitter. She pointed out that, since Nigeria’s official language is English, having all her characters speak primarily in English is a reflection of Nigerian culture. Since the news broke the Academy has come forward with an official response: “The intent of the award remains the same – to recognize accomplishment in films created outside of the United States in languages other than English. As this year’s submitted films were evaluated, we discovered that Lionheart includes only 11 minutes of non-English dialogue, which makes it ineligible for this award category.”
At this time it looks like the Academy will not be going back on their decision, which is unfortunate because the restrictions are so limiting and biased.