After making significant inroads at the 2021 edition, Nollywood movies will not be up for award consideration at the 2022 Oscars.
The Nigerian Official Selection Committee (NOSC) for the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) had, in September, called on filmmakers to submit their entries.
The NOSC is tasked with ensuring that the films to represent Nigeria in the international feature film (IFF) category meet all eligibility rules and technical requirements to compete.
The IFF is presented to a feature-length motion picture produced outside the US that contains 50 percent or more of non-English dialogue.
At the 93rd Oscars, ‘The Milkmaid’, the country’s submission, was ratified by the executive committee of the IFF, having passed the eligibility test. The movie was, however, later dropped in the first shortlist category.
Given the progress made courtesy of ‘The Milkmaid’, the 94th edition was expected to be one more step forward for Nollywood movies.
But in a statement issued on Friday, Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi, the NOSC chairperson, said the selection process could not continue.
She cited eligibility issues as the major concern, adding that no Nigerian film emerged for 2022.
“After a series of deliberations by the committee members, we regret to announce that there won’t be a submission of a film to represent the country for the 94th Academy Awards,” Chineze said in the statement.
“This is due to the fact that the films received so far for screening failed the eligibility rule test set by the Academy.”
Straight to SVOD — skipping cinema debut
What made Nigerian movies ineligible for submission?
The year 2021 saw a lot of filmmakers go straight to subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platforms.
Chineze attributed this development to what was obtainable in 2020 when going straight to SVOD was the norm due to the shutdown of cinemas following the outbreak of COVID-19.
“Some of the Nigerian films submitted to NOSC went to Netflix before the cinema, which was one major criterion because you have to screen in the cinema for at least seven to 10 days,” she said.
“I think the COVID-19 role for the 93rd Oscars confused filmmakers. they assumed they could just go straight to the streamers like Netflix and Amazon, skipping the whole cinema process.
“Nigerian cinemas are open so you must go there first before the streamers. One of the major films that submitted skipped that process as well.”
In 2020, selected films that had a theatrical release — but were initially made available through SVODs — were considered in the IFF category.
However, documentation was required to account for government-mandated theatre closure dates, previously planned theatrical release, and streaming/VOD agreement.
Storyline, technical issues
AMPAS and the NOSC also have a number of technical criteria movies must meet to be considered for selection.
These include preferred video specifications and audio technicalities all listed here.
Chineze said the films NOSC received lost out after they failed to meet the criteria.
“While some of them had technical issues, bad story. Others had a trilogy in one. Most filmmakers did not study the criteria,” she said.
Chineze said the IFF’s language requirement was also a major issue with the selected movies.
“Some of the films submitted this year had language problems. They didn’t meet up with the 51 percent foreign language (non-English),” she said.
“They had mostly English. As a committee, it’s our duty to ensure that this is met so we don’t get disqualified.
“We looked at all the criteria sent to us by the Academy here in Los Angeles. We screened every film, had a meeting to discuss each of them. None of the films passed them all. They either had one problem or the other.
“We didn’t want to take the risk to submit one of those. So we decided not to submit this year.”
Nigeria’s ‘Lion Heart’, which used a lot of Pidgin English, was disqualified in 2019 for its English dialogue after NOSC submitted it.
After protests from Nollywood stakeholders, the Academy later considered Pidgin as a foreign language for the Oscars.
Ahead of 95th Oscars
Chineze expressed optimism that Nollywood will be better prepared for subsequent editions of the Oscars.
The NOSC boss said the committee has written to festivals in a view to training filmmakers on competing globally.
“NOSC has been trying to get government support. Everything we’ve done over the years has been self-funded. This can contribute positively to the economy but we’ve not had any support so far from the government,” she said.
“We found that most filmmakers don’t shoot intentionally. They just submit. After our annual meeting for 2021, we decided we would write to festivals to train filmmakers. We wrote the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF).
“We have a panel discussing the Oscars and its criteria. We have three committee members to be on that panel that will discuss and train participants on competing internationally for the Oscars.
“We’ve also written to the Zuma Film Festival and government parastatals like the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) regarding training. We hope that we all can work together and grow the industry.”
Chineze charged filmmakers to be intentional about their productions.
“We can no longer play locally but on the international stage. You don’t wake up and wing it. We will know because you will fail the criteria. When filmmakers set out to do a project, they should know who the audience is,” she said.
“They know the festivals they’re targeting. If you’re shooting for the Oscars, go on the website and check that your project ticks the boxes from scripting to pre-production, production, and post-production stages.”
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