Genevieve Nnaji’s 2018 film, Lionheart, has been selected by the Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee to compete for the Best International Feature Film Award at the Oscars in 2020. This is the first time a Nigerian film will be considered for an Oscar.
Foreign films must have an approved selection committee in their home country to be considered for the Best International Feature Film Award. Another requirement of this award is that language spoken in the film must be mostly foreign. Filmmakers submit their films to the selection committee, after which the committee proceeds to vet and screen the submitted films.
The Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee (NOSC) announced Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart as Nigeria’s submission to the International Feature Film category two days ago. Lionheart was selected from a number of Nigerian films that were submitted to the NOSC by filmmakers within Nigeria and abroad.
The NOSC was approved by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2015. The committee is made up of 12 key stakeholders in the Nigerian entertainment industry. Chineze Anyaene, producer and director of the 2010 drama film Ije, is Chairman of the NOSC. Other members include Mr. Mahmood Ali-Balogun, AFRIFF Founder Chioma Ude, CEO of Legend Box Office Bruce Ayonote, Shaibu Husseini, Mildred Okwo, Charles Novia, Ramsey Nouah, director and cinematographer Adetokunbo Odubawo, movie producer Ngozi Okafor, and director of Green-White-Green, Abba Makama.
The Chairman of the NOSC, Chineze Anyaene, reportedly stated that the entries this year are a significant improvement from the years before:
“While we cannot say that what we have are the best that Nigeria is capable of producing, it is heart-lifting to know that, from the strength of the entries received this year, we are truly ready for the Oscars. Filmmakers are gradually taking the Oscar rules into consideration, and I have no doubt that it is going to be more competitive, going forward,” she said.
Lionheart premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018 and was acquired by Netflix later that year, making it the first Netflix original film from Nigeria. The film tells the story of Adaeze Obiagu, a young woman who must bear the burdens and frustrations of keeping her sick father’s business afloat. Lionheart was co-produced by Chinny Onwugbenu, Chichi Nwoko and Genevieve Nnaji. Genevieve directed and starred in the film as Adaeze Obiagu. Other actors that appear in the film include Pete Edochie, Nkem Owoh, Onyeka Onwenu, Kanayo .O. Kanayo, Chika Okpala, Kalu Ikeagwu, Sanni Mu’azu, Yakubu Mohammed, Ngozi Ezeonu, Peter Okoye, and Chibuzor Azubuike.
Genevieve reacted to the NOSC’s announcement in an Instagram post saying:
“On behalf of the entire Lionheart team and TEN productions, we are grateful for this recognition and proud to carry the torch. Thank you for all the love and support thus far.”
Lionheart may compete with films submitted from up to 85 other countries. Only 5 films will be selected as finalists for the award, and only one film will emerge the winner. Last year, the winner of Best International Feature Film was Roma, a Mexican film directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
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