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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.

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Courtesy of Nadine Ibrahim.

In Conversation with Nigerian Filmmaker Nadine Ibrahim: 'The local stories matter the most.'

The filmmaker talks about the art of the short film and the evolution of Nollywood as an industry.

Nadine Ibrahim is a rising Nigerian filmmaker who is passionate about telling what she feels are the "real" stories of ordinary Nigerian people. In a country (as is the case with many African countries) where it's expected that one becomes a doctor, a lawyer or an architect, Ibrahim already knew that she was not interested in academics. After she was introduced to media, she soon realized that she was drawn to telling stories, and soon after, her filmmaking journey began. Her two recent short films, I Am Not Corrupt and Marked, have respectively explored the political landscape between citizen and politician as well as the traditional scarification practices in various states across Nigeria. More recently, however, she's currently documenting terrorism in several Nigerian states and working on her first feature-length film—a coming-of-age story of a young boy from rural Nigeria who moves to the city.

Speaking about the genre of film she ultimately sees herself in, Ibrahim says she doesn't want to be boxed in or limited to just one genre—she wants the freedom to explore and to inspire other filmmakers to do the same. "What I've noticed is that we stick to the dramas and the comedies but there's no Sci-Fi, fantasy or action," she says.

We caught up with her to talk about her current projects, what it takes to create a short film and the kinds of stories she wants to see more of in Nollywood.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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