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'Less of a Controversy and More of a Misunderstanding,' Oscar Committee Responds to 'Lionheart' Disqualification

"If you're submitting for something as important as an Academy Award, I would think you should look at the rules," says committee co-chair Larry Karaszewski of the backlash surrounding the Genevieve Nnaji film's ineligibility.

The Oscar's International Film Executive Committee has responded to the backlash stemming from the disqualification of Genevieve Nnaji's Lionheart—which was Nigeria's first-ever Oscar submission.

Speaking with Deadline, the committee's co-chair Larry Karaszewski, called the situation "less of a controversy, and more of a misunderstanding."

He clarified the Academy's rules, stating that despite the change in name from "Best Foreign-Language Film" to "Best International Feature Film," earlier this year, the rules for the category remain the same: film's must be predominantly in a language other than English. Lionheart, which runs for 95 minutes, contains just 11 minutes of Igbo dialogue.


Despite the confusion, which Karaszewski referred to as a "misconception," the exec claims that the rules had been communicated to overseas participants. "If you're submitting for something as important as an Academy Award, I would think you should look at the rules," he said. "But there are no bad intentions on either side. We would love a film from this country and for it to be part of the process."

Nigeria's selection committee responded immediately after the decision was made on Monday, stating that it would submit non-English dialogue films going forward. It urged "filmmakers to shoot with intention of non-English recording dialogue as a key qualifying parameter to represent the country in the most prestigious award."

"We are not looking to make things ineligible," adds Karaszewski. "I don't think this film was disqualified as much as it was ineligible…it's not a dismissal. It's not like we didn't like the movie, but it would be unfair to other films to not (adhere to) the rules."

According to Deadline, the last film to be disqualified for the same reason, was the Israeli film The Band's Visit in 2007.

Karaszewski's comments, however, do little to address the main concerns of those who spoke out against the Academy's decision. Many pointed out that the film is still distinctively Nigerian despite being in English, and that the dialogue reflects the fact that English is the official language in the country where over 500 indigenous languages are spoken. "English is the official language of Nigeria. Are you barring the country from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language," wrote filmmaker Ava DuVernay in a viral tweet.

A common sentiment shared by those online following the news, was that Nigeria was being punished for being colonized. "It's no different to how French connects communities in former French colonies," wrote director Nnaji on Twitter. "We did not choose who colonized us. As ever, this film and many like it, is proudly Nigerian."

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Netflix Launches 'Netflix Naija' and Announces First Nigerian Original Series

Netflix is stepping up its game in Nigeria.

After much anticipation, Netflix has announced its presence in Nigeria.

Yesterday, the streaming giant, which had been procuring Nigerian content throughout much of last year after acquiring Genevieve Nnaji's Lionheart in 2018, announced the arrival of Netflix Naija with a new Twitter account.

"N is for Naija. N is for Nollywood,"read the account's announcement tweet. "N is the 14th alphabet. 14 is also how many great talents you're looking at. N is for Netflix. But most importantly...hello, Nigeria!"

The tweet was shared along with a photo of some of the Nigerian film industry's most notable actors and filmmakers, including Banky W, Adesua Etomi, Kunle Folayan, Kemi Adetiba, Omoni Oboli as well as veteran actors Ramsey Nouah and Richard Mofe-Damijo and several others.

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Nigerian Feature Film 'Eyimofe' Set to Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival

This is the first independent film from Nigeria to premiere at the festival.

Nigerian feature film Eyimofe is set to premiere at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival (BIFF) which will begin today, according to PulseNG.

Eyimofe (translated to "this is my desire"), which tells the story of migrants and their pursuit for better lives in Europe (Italy and Spain specifically), is the first independent film from Nigeria to premiere at the festival.

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Enamel Releases New Single 'Gang' and Accompanying Music Video

The smooth track is the Afropop newcomer's follow-up to his largely successful debut single 'Pokish'.

Rising Afropop artist Enamel has dropped a new track titled "Gang" as well as the accompanying visuals.

The new track is a follow-up to his 2019 debut single "Pokish" featuring Galaybanton and was produced by Kiddominant.

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The Gorillaz Enlist Fatoumata Diawara for New Track 'Désolé

A stunning collaboration that we didn't even know we needed.

The Gorillaz enlist none other than Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara for their latest single "Désolé," the second single from the hit-making British band's Song Machine installation project.

"Making Désolé with Fatou was a real moment for me, you know," the band's drummer Russel Hobbs is quoted as saying in a statement via Pitchfork. Désole translates to "sorry" in French, but despite it's apologetic title, the song is a laid-back groove, elevated by vocals from lead singer Damon Albarn and Diawara, who sings in English, French and Bambara.

"She's an African Queen," Russel adds. "This lady made the song what it is, beautiful, like life. What can I say about Désolé? They say sorry is the hardest word, but that's not true.... Try saying antidisestablishmentarianism with a mouth full of gluten free cronuts on a speed boat without licking your lips."

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