The Nigerian Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC) has called on Nollywood filmmakers to submit their films for the 93rd Academy Awards scheduled for April 25, 2021.
This comes 10 months after Nigeria’s first-ever Oscar submission for best international feature film, Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut Lionheart, was disqualified for not having “a predominantly non-English dialogue track.”
Lionheart, in which Nnaji also stars, is partially in Igbo language but it is mostly in English which violated the Oscar rule for the category it was submitted.
The disqualification was questioned by Nnaji, who said the film represented the way Nigerians speak.
American filmmaker Ava DuVernay also frowned at the disqualification, arguing on Twitter that English is Nigeria’s official language.
Some others queried the Nigerian selection committee for misunderstanding the rules.
In spite of the setback, NOSC chairman Chineze Anyaene said Lionheart’s submission in 2019 represented a pivotal moment for the industry.
“We were able to make our first-ever entry submission to the Oscars for the International Feature Film Awards category as a country, and the awareness this has brought to the industry as a whole has been amazing. It has opened the industry to other markets, and we hope to see partnerships with other industries soon,” Anyaene explained.
The language requirement for the international film category has not changed.
The NOSC states on its website: “An international film is defined as a feature-length motion picture (over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America and its territories with a predominantly (more than 50%) non-English dialogue track.”
The global COVID-19 pandemic with the attendant closure of cinemas worldwide means that, unlike before, films that were not screened at the cinema can be submitted.
“Until further notice – and for the 93rd Academy Awards year only, the country selected films that had a previously planned theatrical release but are initially made available through a reputable commercial streaming distribution service or video on demand may qualify for awards consideration in the International Feature category for the 93rd Academy Awards,” the committee said.
Speaking further, Chineze stated that “due to guidelines and government-mandated rules to manage coronavirus spread, filmmakers have to provide to the Academy documentation (original document(s) and an English translation) of government-mandated theatre/cinema closure dates, previously planned theatrical release and steaming distribution or video on demand agreements.”
Oscar 2020 will honour the best films of 2019.