Lionheart de Genevieve Nnaji

Lionheart: Does its disqualification at the Oscars pose the question of the choice of language in African films?

Last October, Genevieve Nnaji’s choice of film to represent Nigeria at the Oscars 2020 sparked great enthusiasm. A few weeks later, big disappointment after the disqualification of the film. The reason: the International Feature Film category rewards films that are mainly in foreign languages ​​(non-English) and the majority of Lionheart’s dialogues are in English.

Side reactions, we can understand the exasperation of Genevieve Nnaji but …

Indeed, actress and director Genevieve Nnaji had not hid her anger and exasperation, writing that Nigeria had not asked to be colonized (and end up speaking English). If we can understand the anger of the actress and all those who criticized the Oscars, this episode also challenges.

How did the Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee (NOSC) select a film that did not match the requirements of the Academy of Oscars? When one remembers the strong communication made about Lionheart’s choice, with hindsight, it’s hard not to wonder if the Nigerian committee has not shown an enthusiasm that has made it forget the essential.

Similarly, this disqualification puts the question of African languages ​​on the carpet

Can we hope to win international awards with major productions mainly in national languages? For some, the bet is difficult hence the use of English or French. But apparently for the Academy of Oscars, the name of the award may have changed, but the spirit behind.

Lionheart de Genevieve Nnaji
Lionheart by Genevieve Nnaji, first Nigerian film to be bought by Netflix
Also find me on Instagram @minsilizanga

Indeed, the category of « Best International Film » was previously called « Best Foreign Film », that means what it means.

For my part, I think that in the light of our societies and the world of today, we can, on the one hand, develop films in English or another language resulting from colonization, and on the other hand, no longer canton our own languages ​​to extracts of brief dialogues.

The argument that our countries are made up of so many peoples that we need a language that brings them together (and as always, a colonial language), seems very light to me

There are so many captioning options to match the challenge. That brings me back to that time when on YouTube I, « French-Speaking » and so far away of Yoruba People, spent hours watching movies in Yoruba with English subtitles (laughs!).

Incidentally, I take the opportunity to ask a question (I know, they will not read it but I ask anyway): What is the goal when African filmmakers subtitle language passages of their films with words like « In native tongue »? These native languages ​​have no name?

To return to the original question: does Lionheart’s Oscar disqualification raise the question of the choice of language in African films? In my opinion, yes. ©