*Ava DuVernay has called out The Academy for disqualifying Nigeria’s “Lionheart” from the Oscar race in the Best International Feature Film category.
As reported by Thewrap, “Lionheart,” written, directed and starring Genevieve Nnaj, is partially in the Igbo language of Nigeria, but it’s mostly in English, which violates an Academy rule that entries in the category must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track.”
DuVernay is questioning that rule, hitting up Twitter to address The Academy directly, writing: “To @TheAcademy, 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?”
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To @TheAcademy, 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? https://t.co/X3EGb01tPF
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) November 4, 2019
“Lionheart” follows one woman’s struggle to keep her father’s business relevant in a male-dominated industry. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.
Nnaji said her film “represents the way we speak as Nigerians,” she wrote on Twitter. “This includes English which acts as a bridge between the 500+ languages spoken in our country; thereby making us #OneNigeria.”
Nnaji noted in a separate tweet that Nigeria’s relationship to the English language is a complicated.
“It’s no different to how French connects communities in former French colonies. We did not choose who colonized us,” she said of Nigeria being a British colony. “As ever, this film and many like it, is proudly Nigerian.”
Fellow director Lulu Wang offered more questions for The Academy regarding the rule for foreign-language films.
“This calls attention to the delineation of ‘foreign film’ vs ‘foreign-language film,'” Wang tweeted, Bustle reports. “Which makes more sense? Can a ‘foreign film’ be in OUR language (i.e. English)? Can a domestic (i.e American) film be in a foreign language? What does it mean to be foreign? And to be American?”
The Academy has yet to respond to the criticism.
“Lionheart” was the first film ever submitted to the Oscars by Nigeria.