Nigeria: Oscars 2023 – Again, Nigerian Movies Fail to Meet Eligibility Criteria

‘The Milkmaid’ was Nigeria’s first-ever submission in the International Feature Film category of the 2021 Oscars.

For the second year in a row, Nigeria would not be submitting a film in the International Feature Film (IFF) category of the Oscars.

It is because none of the entries received by the Nigerian Official Selection Committee (NOSC) for the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) met the eligibility criteria.

The Chairperson of NOSC, Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi, revealed this in a statement on Monday.

Nigeria’s last submission was “The Milkmaid” in 2020.

‘The Milkmaid’, a Boko-Haram-inspired movie, was also Nigeria’s first-ever submission in the International Feature Film category.

Nigeria attained the first-time feat at the Academy after the country’s submission was ratified by the Executive Committee of the IFF.

However, despite passing the eligibility rule test, the Desmond Ovbiagele-produced film lost out in the Oscar run after it failed to make the first shortlist in the International Feature Film category.

In 2021, NOSC announced the cancellation of its plan for the country’s participation at the 2022 Oscars citing eligibility issues of films received as a significant concern.

In 2019, the Oscars disqualified Nigeria’s official submission “Lionheart” for not meeting the non-English dialogue criteria.

It led to the controversy on whether or not Nigerian pidgin should not be considered a local language.

Although the Oscars has since reviewed the rule, approving dialogues in pidgin, ‘The Milkmaid’ shot with Hausa, Fulfulde and Arabic dialogues appeared to have been made with the original Academy rules in mind and had not left anything to chance.

Screening process

Ms Anyaene-Abonyi, who had since communicated the development to the AMPAS, expressed regret that the Committee could not find a film suitable for the award.

Consequently, she announced that it would not submit a movie for the 2023 Oscars.

Although the Committee received three (3) epic films following its call for submissions last August, it turned out that none of them will advance to the next stage due to the members’ voting patterns.

In a session that lasted two hours on 3 September 2023, the NOSC recorded a voting chart of 8, 5, 1, 1 from its 15 members – with “No Film is Eligible” taking the lead.

Ms Anyaene-Abonyi started: “Nigerian films had, no doubt, improved significantly as the awareness of the requirements has since grown among filmmakers, and potentially soon, we just might be bringing this award home in succession.”

She, however, implored filmmakers to “get more acquainted with Oscars-nominated films in the IFF category to achieve the needed international recognition and put our films in its acclaimed level of creative discourse.”

The Academy presents the IFF award annually to a feature-length motion picture produced outside the United States that contains 50 per cent or more of non-English dialogue.

The 95th Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will honour films released in 2022 and is scheduled to take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on 12 March 2023

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