By George Onmonya Daniel
When Lion Heart became the first Nollywood film on Neflix, it was celebrated all over the country and outside. A lot of Nigerian diasporas rushed to watch it and splashed it all over the social media. It was a big one for the Director and the lead actress in the movie, Genevieve Nnaji.
Lion Heart would go on to become one of the highest grossing movie in terms of earning in Nollywood and Genevieve the pacesetter.
Then Lion Heart became the first Nollywood film to make it to the Oscars. That alone was a big one for Nigeria, only for Oscars to later disqualified it because most of the film’s dialogue was in English despite Igbo and Hausa that was spoken in the film that half of Nigerians don’t know what they are saying in half of the movie without English translation. The rules clearly state that to be eligible to vie for that category, a film must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track,” and Lionheart’s dialogue is predominantly English. Hollywood doesn’t probably know or consider that Nigeria official language is English and English is widely spoken than any other one language across a country with over 420 diverse languages. At least now they know. Will this pressure them to start considering movies from colonial Africa and other parts of the world where English is widely spoken and a lingua franca? We don’t know that yet, what we do know is that now the Oscars know that English and a mixture of local languages is spoken in Nigeria as portrayed in Genevieve’s Lion Heart.
Hot on the heels of the Lionheart’s Oscars 2020 disqualification by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Austria’s entry Joy became the latest to witness the same fate.
The disqualification of Joy is still based on the best international feature category, which states that its dialogue must not be predominantly in English, which both films fall short of.
So Lionheart is not the only movie that was disqualified for the same reason this year or previously. According to The Academy’s rules, it states 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.”
Will disqualification of Lionheart boost movie now in local languages, especially Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba that dominates the industry? Perhaps it will.
Now big movie makers like Kunle Ofolayan, AY the comedian, Mo Abudu of the Wedding
Planner, Desmond Elliot, and the big movie makers in Nollywood know what Oscars want if they must put their film forward for Oscars award. Does Oscars really matters? It may not for others, but it does for some to get their movie recognized all over the globe. And it will be good for Nollywood.
Or perhaps Nollywood and those who make movies in former British colonies would protest against Oscars because most of these countries have English as language of administration and many in urban areas use predominantly English as a means of communication. Is it be fair to disqualify them from the Oscars? Rules are rules and for now the rules are crystal.
It certainly looks like the big movie makers in Nigeria would consider making more movies in our local languages if the Oscars rule remain.