Genevieve Nnaji, veteran Nollywood actress, has expressed “grave” reservations over the disqualification of ‘Lionheart’, her directorial debut movie, by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

‘Lionheart’ was recently selected by the Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee (NOSC) and submitted to represent the country at the award event to be held on February 9, 2020, in Los Angeles, United States.

The much-acclaimed movie, which first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2018, had been up against 92 countries around the world as Nigeria’s first-ever entry to make it to the Academy awards — five years after a committee was constituted to that effect.

According to Thewrap, the movie, which is partially in English and Igbo languages violates an Academy rule that entries in the category must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track.”

“The Academy announced the disqualification of “Lionheart” to voters in the category in an email on Monday,” said the news outlet.

“The film was scheduled to screen for Academy voters in the international category on Wednesday in a double bill with the Honduran entry, “Blood, Passion, and Coffee.” That film will now screen by itself at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood.”

Ava Marie DuVernay, American filmmaker and film distributor, who appeared furious over the development, took to her Twitter page to register her annoyance with the organisers of the 2020 Oscars.

“To The Academy, You disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever submission for Best International Feature because its in English. But English is the official language of Nigeria. Are you barring this country from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language?,” she asked.

In reaction to the tweet, the award-winning Nigerian actress said ‘Lionheart’ represents the “way we speak as Nigerians.”

She also took a critical shot at the Oscars, stating that “we did not choose who colonized us.”

“I am the director of Lionheart. This movie represents the way we speak as Nigerians. This includes English which acts as a bridge between the 500+ languages spoken in our country; thereby making us #OneNigeria,” she wrote.

“It’s no different to how French connects communities in former French colonies. We did not choose who colonized us. As ever, this film and many like it, is proudly Nigerian.”

‘Lionheart’, produced by Chinny Onwugbenu and directed by Nnaji, was released worldwide on January 4, 2019, and acquired on September 7, 2018, as the first Netflix original film produced in Nigeria.

Chineze Anyaene, chairman of the NOSC, had previously told TheCable Lifestyle that ‘Lionheart’ emerged Nigeria’s only submission to Oscar 2020 because it was the country’s “only international export.”

“Genevieve’s ‘Lionheart’ was Nigeria’s only international export. It was the only film among the six that had screened in a top festival. It was Nollywood’s first Netflix original. Other films had similar advantages and a fair chance of getting selected. It was a very tough decision to make,” she had said.



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