Ava DuVernay went after the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for disqualifying Lionheart—Nigeria’s first Oscar submission—from consideration for Best International Feature Film on the basis that it’s primarily in English.
While the Academy’s rules say the submission for the category must be in “a predominantly non-English” language, English happens to be the official language of Nigeria on account of its history as a British colony. DuVernay points out that this logic means Nigeria, as well as a handful of other African nations, apparently can never be considered for an Oscar.
According to The Wrap, Lionheart is partially in the Igbo language, but also in English, which is, again, reflective of how people in Nigeria speak.
Shortly after DuVernay’s tweet, the film’s director, Genevieve Nnaji, responded, pointing out that English is the country’s lingua franca.
The Best Foreign Language Oscar was first awarded in 1956, and while the name changed in 2019 to “Best International Feature Film,” the antiquated requirement that the film in a language other than English did not.