Oscars forced to change movie eligibility rules by coronavirus

In 2019, Nigeria Official Selection Committee (For the Academy Awards IFF Submissions) (NOSC) nominated ‘Lionheart’, a directorial debut movie of Genevieve Nnaji, a Nigerian actress, to represent the country at the 2020 Oscars in Los Angeles.

The movie, which is both in English and Igbo languages, was disqualified and said to have violated a rule that entries in the category must have a “predominantly non-English dialogue track”.

Reacting to the development, Nnaji had said: “I am the director of Lionheart. This movie represents the way we speak as Nigerians”.

“This includes English which acts as a bridge between the 500+ languages spoken in our country; thereby making us one Nigeria.

“It’s no different to how French connects communities in former French colonies. We did not choose who colonized us. As ever, this film and many like it is proudly Nigerian.”

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However, the NOSC on Saturday announced the approval of Pidgin English by the Academy as a non-English (foreign language) recording dialogue in films.

The organization chaired by Filmmaker, Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi, made the disclosure in Lagos.

Anyaene-Abonyi said that as with every submission in the International Feature Category this year, the minutes and percentage of all individual languages in the country-selected film would be required by the Academy.

“In addition, this is in line with the Academy’s rule and definition of an international film as a feature film with a predominantly (more than 50 percent) non-English dialogue track,’’ she said.

Anyaene-Abonyi confirmed that the request for approval started in December 2019, after which she visited the Academy’s office in Los Angeles in February 2020, following a meeting scheduled between herself and representatives of the International Feature Film (IFF) executives.

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She added that the outcome of that meeting was wider consultation with the IFF executives; ensuring approval is benchmarked and consistent with their screening matrix.

Anyaene-Abonyi said that since then, she had been having a series of conversations with the Academy to secure quicker approval as the 93rd Oscars award was already knocking.

“This is a major concern for me. I recall that the NOSC 2019 submission of ‘LionHeart’, was disqualified primarily for not satisfying the language requirement.

“This approval, as secured by NOSC, is a new feat for the industry and it is untrue if any other individual or entity claims such achievement as this is beyond mere writing to the Academy without knowing the approval intricacies,’’ she said.

Anyaene-Abonyi added that following the approval, the NOSC might consider re-opening the portal for submission, which was closed at 11.59 p.m. on Oct. 2, to allow over five other filmmakers with Pidgin English films to submit.

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She noted that this would only be a one-time opportunity as individual countries have their respective deadlines, which is always earlier to accommodate other processes so as not to miss the Academy’s deadline fixed for Dec. 1, 2020.

Anyaene-Abonyi said that for technical submission details, interested persons should visit https://thenosc.org/ and for further enquiries, email info@thenosc.org.