Destiny Adeyemi, BA African studies
The requirement of non-English prevents countries like Nigeria…from using and fluctuating between a variety of languages
The Nigerian film ‘Lionheart’, was disqualified from the Academy Awards’ ‘Best International Feature Film’ category, on 5 November, for having too much dialogue in English. Lionheart, which is currently on Netflix, details the story of a young woman who attempts to save her family’s transportation business and her navigation of the business world as a woman.
The film, which is Nigeria’s first submission to the category, features dialogue in English, Nigerian English, Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa, but heavily features English. The requirements by the Academy state films in this category should have ‘predominantly non-English dialogue track’.
The Academy has previously faced criticism about this category. It was recently changed from ‘Best Foreign Feature Film’ to ‘Best International Feature Film’, to centre America less, though, it still has a language requirement, as well as limiting countries to one submission, which reduces the ability to feature the range of global filmmaking. The requirement of non-English prevents countries like Nigeria, that was colonised by the British, from using and fluctuating between a variety of languages, something that occurs in everyday life. This is seen with the development of Nigerian Pidgin English which fuses local and colonial languages.
The director, Genevieve Nnaji, voiced this in her disagreement: ‘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’. Critics have argued that the film could be submitted to other Oscar categories, although these are dominated by American films.