The Nigeria Official Selection Committee (NOSC) is enmeshed in a web of controversies, a fallout of its failure to submit a film for consideration at the next Oscars for the second time in a row.

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The NOSC is tasked with ensuring that the entry to represent Nigeria in the international feature film (IFF) category of the Oscars meets all eligibility rules and technical requirements to compete.

After making significant inroads in 2021 with ‘Milkmaid’ and being dropped from the first shortlist, Nollywood didn’t emerge at all to vie in the 94th edition of the annual award.

In 2022 ahead of 2023, NOSC yet again failed to submit a film, a situation that many filmmakers have attributed to the introduction of a “no film eligible” category in the framework on which the committee’s internal voting is based.

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Chaired by Chineze Anyaene, the 15-member committee had voted in an open ballot on September 3.

The late Biyi Bandele’s film ‘Eleshin Oba’, Kunle Afolayan’s ‘Anikulapo’, and Femi Adebayo’s ‘King of Thieves’ made it to the final of the selection process.

The 15-member committee reached an 8-5-1-1 pattern, with the majority voting that no film is eligible.

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NOSC submitted the results of its voting process to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) and it soon became public knowledge that Nigeria would yet again lose out on an award season.

Resignations hit NOSC, leaving membership divided

Kunle Afolayan, whose film has been enjoying critical acclaim following its SVOD debut, was among the first filmmakers to air their displeasure. He didn’t respond when contacted about the controversy.

Shaibu Husseini, a journalist, and Mildred Okwo, the filmmaker, resigned from the NOSC membership and weren’t willing to speak on the matter. Some remained indecisive as the committee’s membership became divided.

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Public consensus, it would emerge, became that the NOSC should have submitted its best entry irrespective, leaving the decision of competitiveness for the Academy to decide during the shortlisting and ultimate nomination.

In an email sent to committee members on September 2 as seen by TheCable, the NOSC said the outcome of the voting process would be final and binding, irrespective of the direction towards which the screening swings.

An inside source who spoke anonymously to TheCable Lifestyle said a faction of the committee displeased with the outcome of the screening sought a second voting process, as against the pre-established framework for the selection.

They said the faction had reached out to the Academy via email behind the back of the chairperson after the results had been sent in to argue that the committee had decided on redoing the screening process.

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AMPAS won’t interfere as the NOSC conflict intensifies

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As the discord spilled into social media, claims and counterclaims soared. The NOSC remained mute on the matter.

A response from AMPAS as contained in a letter replying to Mahmood Ali-Balogun, a member, showed it stated it is unable to dictate voting procedures or influence the decision of selection committees at the country level.

“Any decision regarding re-voting must be decided by the Nigerian selection committee based on [its] internal rules and regulations. This issue will need to be resolved by the Nigerian selection committee and its members,” it added.

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Molara Wood, a film critic, is among the prominent figures who have been vocal about the NOSC kerfuffle, alleging that attempts were being made to bungle Nigeria’s chances at the 2023 Oscars in what she termed “bad faith”.

In a barrage of tweets encouraging the filmmaker Mo Abudu to file a lawsuit, she said Anyaene accused Abudu’s EbonyLife Studios of inducing members of the committee to revolt against the outcome of the voting process.

“NOSC is not tasked to decide what will definitely win. They are asked to put forward films that are eligible for consideration for Oscar nominations. Simple. A committee cannot be the Rock of Gibraltar,” she said.

Among other allegations Wood made while calling for Anyaene’s resignation is that the chairperson unilaterally snuck in the “no film eligible” category into NOSC’s 2022 voting, frustrating requests for meetings and debate on it.

“Every member must consider very seriously why they voted in the manner they did. There are atrocities happening in the creative space, the film industry especially, and everyone just seems to roll on and roll with it,” she said.

“NOSC has to reassess its procedures and [consider] a change of leadership. As with all Nigerian things, sit-tight leadership becomes Abacha-like. It won’t do.”

NOSC chairperson fumes amid resignation calls

Anyaene didn’t reply to texts, calls, and an email seeking to capture her side of the story in the NOSC discord.

However, a committee source made available to TheCable Lifestyle her commentary wherein she kicked against calls for her resignation.

“It will make more sense if criticisms [of NOSC’s verdict] are factual with some levels of logical reasoning,” she said.

“Calling for my resignation simply because the committee voted based on using the IFF requirements and I have to uphold the committee voting outcome is simply baseless.”

Asked why the NOSC insists on not exploring the option of revoting to address the subsisting conflict over Nigeria’s non-submission of an entry, a committee source who witnessed the voting described the idea as an “afterthought”.

“It tells a lot about the integrity of the process if, after sending the result to the Academy, we backtrack and argue to them we want to revote. If there’s a clause that worked against us, we can adjust them against next year,” they said.

“People must stop fighting this particular outcome. The result is out already. We can’t be divided against ourselves.

“It’s either some members don’t read or they’re lax about rules. The rule says the outcome of the voting is binding and final. The voting process took almost two hours. The voting itself lasted about 20 minutes.

“No process is perfect. Members had about an hour to point out the need to address certain grey areas. These are industry veterans. It makes one think an external force is sponsoring us to rebel against ourselves. It’s suspicious.”

Academy’s IFF requirements in context

Chineze Anyaene
Chineze Anyaene

Anyaene’s argument, as similarly stated in 2021 prior to efforts at educating producers, seems to be that indigenous filmmakers looking to be nominated for the Academy’s IFF category don’t shoot with intentionality from the get-go.

The chairperson cited Academy requirements that a submitted film be theatrically exhibited for seven consecutive days in a cinema before it would be released to the public or streaming platform or VOD.

“This year, we had films that were already going to be put on Netflix immediately and still want to be considered for submission,” she said.

“I had to email and speak with the Academy to grant a leeway on this requirement because I understand the business side from the filmmakers’ angle to give Netflix that exclusive right once the film is ready.”

Anyaene said it is an act of embarrassment for a member to write the Academy post-voting to request a revote.

“In 2019 when we submitted ‘Lionheart’, some people felt ‘King of Boys’ should’ve been considered. We submitted ‘Milkmaid’ some had contrary views,” the chair stated, confirming the resignation of three committee members.

“Last year, the committee voted not to submit even when a former committee member (CJ Obasi) felt his film had a chance. We did not receive the type of flagrant comments we received this year.

“This year, it seems there’s more to it than meets the eye. We can’t change rules at every turn to suit sentiments.”

“I reiterate that many of the comments on NOSC would be laid to rest simply by studying the IFF requirements. Just because the recording dialogue of a film is not in English does not mean the film is Oscar-worthy.”



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