Nigeria’s Nollywood movie industry will be waiting a while longer for its first Academy Award nomination.
Lionheart, the country’s first ever film submitted for consideration in the International Feature Film category, has been disqualified by the Academy for falling short of the non-English dialogue quota, per the category’s requirements.
The film, starring and directed by Genevieve Nnaji, one of Nollywood’s biggest stars, is predominantly in English with only about 12 minutes of the film’s 95-minute run time in Igbo, one of Nigeria’s main local languages. Lionheart is also Netflix’s first original film from Nollywood and while it was available via the streaming platform, it also had a run in local cinemas which met the Academy’s requirement that submitted films must have been exhibited for a minimum of seven consecutive days in a movie theater.
The movie’s disqualification has stirred a debate about how the rule impacts movie industries in countries where English is the official language with 2017 Academy Award nominee Ava Duvernay among leading critics of the decision to disqualify Lionheart. For her part, Nnaji has defended the dominance of English in her movie saying the language “acts as a bridge” between the over 500 languages spoken in Nigeria.