Genevieve Nnaji’s movie did not meet the Academy’s rules for international feature film submissions.
Nigeria’s entry for the international feature film Oscar category was disqualified on Monday because it contained too much English dialogue, leading to backlash from its filmmaker, Nigerian actor-director Genevieve Nnaji, as well as from fellow helmer Ava DuVernay.
Lionheart is Nigeria’s first-ever submission to the Academy Awards. Nnaji stars alongside Peter Edochie and Nkem Owoh in the film, which she also co-wrote with her producing partner Chinny Onwugbenu. Lionheart premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival and was acquired by Netflix for worldwide distribution.
According to the Academy’s rules for the international feature film category, “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.” Lionheart has just under 12 minutes of dialogue that is in the Igbo language native to Southeastern Nigeria, while the rest of the 94-minute pic is in English. The film is not excluded from entering other Oscar categories, including consideration for best picture.