“To @TheAcademy, You disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever submission for Best International Feature because its in English. But English is the official language of Nigeria. Are you barring this country from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language?” DuVernay wrote on Twitter.
In a statement disqualifying Lion Heart, the Academy cited 'Lion Heart's mere 11 minutes of non-English dialogue as grounds for disqualification.
"In April 2019, we announced that the name of the Foreign Language Film category changed to International Feature Film. We also confirmed that the rules for the category would not change. The intent of the award remains the same -- to recognize accomplishment in films created outside of the United States in languages other than English," the statement reads.
"As this year's submitted films were evaluated, we discovered that 'Lionheart' includes only 11 minutes of non-English dialogue, which makes it ineligible for this award category."
Despite the Academy’s statement, social media was not having it as furious reaction trailed the disqualification news, responding to DuVernay’s tweet, Lion Heart’s producer/director and one of Nollywood leading actress, Genevieve Nnaji wrote “This movie represents the way we speak as Nigerians. This includes English which acts as a bridge between the 500 plus languages spoken in our country; thereby making us #OneNigeria.”
She continued: “It’s no different to how French connects communities in former French colonies. We did not choose who colonized [sic] us. As ever, this film and many like it, is proudly Nigerian.”
Other comments include: “And we literally speak English because they came to our country made us lol.”
“Hello colonialism. I haven’t seen you in about five seconds. Oh you’re punishing me for being one of the colonised? What a novel idea!”
Nigeria's Oscar Selection Committee on described the disqualification as "an eye-opener" and said it would urge local filmmakers to take care to follow Academy guidelines in the future.
The committee acknowledged that "Lionheart", which is Nigeria's first-ever submission for Oscar contention -- departed from the requirement that contenders feature "a predominantly non-English dialogue track." The 95-minute comedy is mostly in English, with a short section in the Igbo language.