I was quite stunned when I heard the reason why the Nigerian movie Lionheart (2018 film) had been disqualified from the Best International Film section of the Oscars: because of … too much English in it! Can you imagine that? Isn’t English the official language of Nigeria? So no movies made in English by Nigerians should be accepted? But an Algerian movie with French in it (French the language of the colonizer) gets accepted in that section? In other words, a Jamaican movie sent to the academy cannot be in English, a Ghanaian, Ugandan, Canadian, or Australian one should not be in English, etc… even though English is the official language in these countries? But an Algerian movie could be in French, an Ivorian or Comoros movie in French, and these would be qualified as ‘international’ enough! This does not even take into account that Lionheart (2018 film) does have sections in Igbo, one of the languages spoken in Nigeria. I think, as always the oscars academy has shown why they are really not inclusive at all, and above all, quite narrow-minded!
Below is the article from The Guardian.
[…] The Academy was considering a Nigerian movie called Lionheart in its best international feature film category. I watched Lionheart when it came out last year, partly because of the novelty of seeing a movie from Nigeria’s burgeoning Nollywood film industry on Netflix.
Directed by and starring the Nollywood titan Genevieve Nnaji, it is a captivating look at family, class, sexism, politics and the texture of life in the Niger delta. It’s both very Nigerian and very relatable for audiences who know nothing about Nigeria. It’s incredible that Nigeria has never had an Oscars submission before, but this is a good choice for its first. Yet Lionheart has just been disqualified because there is too much English in it.
In fact, Lionheart does feature the Igbo language, which millions of people in eastern Nigeria speak. But the film reflects the way many Nigerians – as former imperial British subjects – speak in real life. As in most of anglophone west Africa, education, politics and formal economic activity is conducted in English, which people interchange with the dozens – in Nigeria’s case, hundreds – of African languages that they also speak. This is the legacy of empire. And this legacy of empire, even though they were once part of it, is what some American institutions don’t seem able to comprehend.
So the American Academy expects films competing in its “international feature film” category to emphatically not be in English. Its rules are very clear on the matter, stating that “an international film is defined as a feature-length motion picture (defined as over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track”.
But these rules have nonsensical implications. For example, the Algerian film Papicha, which is a favourite in the category, features a good deal of French – the language Algeria inherited from its colonisers. The message seems to be that as long as your imperial power spoke what Americans regard as a “foreign” language – in other words, anything but English – you can speak it and remain authentic. But if you share an imperial past with the US to the extent that English is your nation’s lingua franca as a result, then it is somehow less authentic to speak it. …