Nigerian director and actress Genevieve Nnaji protested the disqualification of her film, Lionheart, in the Oscar category for the best international feature film.
The Academy of Oscars has dismissed the Nigerian comedy “for having too much dialogue in English”, which runs counter to its rule, which requires that entries in the international category have “a dialogue track mainly non-English speaking”.
Lionheart, which is Nigeria’s first submission to the Oscars, is mostly in English, with an 11-minute section in the Igbo language.
The film, which received positive reviews and is currently streamed on Netflix, was scheduled to be screened Wednesday for Academy voters in the general category. Its disqualification was announced to voters in an email sent Monday, according to the website The Wrapwebsite.
It was one of 29 unprecedented films on the 93 movies submitted this year that were made by women. Ms. Nnaji, who also plays in the film, protested against the disqualification on Twitter, saying the film “represents the way we speak as Nigerians”.
She added: “This includes English, which serves as a bridge between the more than 500 languages spoken in our country. We did not choose who colonized us. As always, this film and many others like it, is proudly Nigerian.”
Hollywood director Ava DuVernay tweeted to support Lionheart by asking if disqualification meant “preventing” Nigeria from fighting for an Oscar:
“You have disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever nominee for the Best International Feature Film Award because it’s in English, but English is the official language of Nigeria, so stop this country from competing for an Oscar in its own language..”
English is the official language of most African countries that have been colonized by the United Kingdom.