Twitter was agog this morning when it was announced that Genevieve Nnaji’s juggernaut of a film, Lionheart, had been disqualified from the Oscar running for best International Film.
The category, former called the Best Foreign Language film had given Africa its first Oscar, won by South African gangsta film Tsotsi.
Since then, films like Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki have all made largely unsuccessful bids for the coveted Oscar.
But Genevieve Nnaji’s film really had a chance.
It was the little indie film that could, revolved around family values and continentally loved film lead, and it had the backing and the masterful storytelling that draped Nnaji’s deal with Netflix, her film sold before it even premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Add fights with Nigerian gatekeepers and its now cemented status as a Nigerian holiday film (it was released in December) and a vanguard that paved the way for the current outpouring of New Nollywood films, and Lionheart was perfect Oscar bait.
Nnaji’s team must have been aware there was a risk of the film being axed.
It was after all predominantly in English and had a story that was as universal as it was Nigerian, it could go either way.
But I think it went the way it did because Genevieve didn’t quite use the massive machinery of the media to further her cause.
For one, the language barrier and limitations should have been addressed while the film was being shopped around for a submission slot. The discussion should have been concise, the goal clearly outlined.
Lionheart doesn’t meet criteria standards, but these are the ways that it is a wholly indigenous Nigerian film
Her reasons for attempting should have saturated the internet much like Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, with reviews, discussions and interviews allowing the viewer to understand exactly what they’re seeing and why they were asked to challenge the status quo in favour of Lionheart.
Image was everything for Nollywood and by extension, projects like the film and Genevieve didn’t spring to action in support of her film and in defiance of the directive that sought to limit her.
But now we have positive after death and a conversation that might fail Genevieve Nnaji but will come in useful in the future.
I am rooting for Genny and hopefully, we are able to make enough of a ruckus to get the Academy to reconsider its decision.
If they don’t, we regroup, but thankfully this time aware of the power of a good media machine.