Ava DuVernay Is Calling Out The Oscars Again For Disqualifying Nigerian Film ‘Lionheart’

Jenzia Burgos
Ava DuVernay
Photo: Getty Images.

Welp. It looks like #OscarsSoWhite really isn’t letting up anytime soon: Ava DuVernay criticized the Oscars after Lionheart was disqualified from consideration for best international feature today, and frankly, it’s looking like we need a new hashtag. #OscarsStillSoWhite, maybe? In fact, the #OscarsStillSoWhite that they think that countries are only “international” when the primary language spoken there isn’t English. In the case of Nigeria’s Lionheart, the predominant language used in the film is English, which seemingly broke the rules for the Academy’s international feature category.

Director and filmmaker Ava DuVernay, our patroness saint of all things Oscars-inclusivity, took to Twitter swiftly after news broke of the disqualification to share her thoughts with the Academy.

“To @TheAcademy, You disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever submission for Best International Feature because its in English,” her Tweet reads, “But English is the official language of Nigeria. Are you barring this country from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language?” DuVernay also linked to a story about the film’s disqualification.

According to the article she linked, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences disqualified actress and director Genevieve Nnaji’s film because it violated their rule that suggests Best International Feature Film entries must include “a predominantly non-English dialogue track.” But DuVernay makes a fantastic point here: Is the Oscars really about to alienate any international country on the basis of language?

Damn, colonization. Looks like there’s no winning over you. Nnaji also took to Twitter to respond to DuVernay and the Academy’s disqualification on this point. She wrote: “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 #OneNigeria. @TheAcademy.”

In a follow-up tweet, she continued: “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. @TheAcademy.”

Lionness—a valiant film about a young woman who battles a partiarchical work environment after taking over her father’s company—is available to stream on Netflix. Show the film some love, because clearly the Oscars isn’t going to.

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