The Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee (NOSC) has picked Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart as the country’s entry in the International Feature Film category of the 2020 Oscars.
The committee announced the selection today, following a statutory vetting and subsequent voting of entries received from Nigerian filmmakers at home and in the Diaspora.
Produced by Chinny Onwugbenu, Chichi Nwoko, Genevieve Nnaji, and directed by Genevieve Nnaji, Lionheart premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and was acquired on September 7, 2018 as the first Netflix original film produced in Nigeria.
The film stars Pete Edochie, Genevieve Nnaji, Nkem Owoh, Onyeka Onwenu, Kanayo .O. Kanayo, Chika Okpala, Kalu Ikeagwu, Sanni Mu’azu, Yakubu Mohammed, Ngozi Ezeonu, Peter Okoye (P-Square) and Chibuzor Azubuike (Phyno).
Released worldwide on January 4, 2019 after a December 2018 theatrical release in Nigeria, Lionheart, which is Nnaji’s directorial debut, tells the story of a young woman, Adaeze Obiagu (Genevieve), who becomes saddled with the responsibility of running her sick father’s business under the suffocating supervision of an uncle, played by Nkem Owoh. Adaeze’s competing business instincts and family obligations become a catalyst for drastic change not everyone is ready to embrace.
Since the inauguration of the NOSC in 2014, this is the first time Nigeria is submitting a film to the Oscars, as previous entries received by the committee did not meet basic criteria.
Among the films received this year, the NOSC said it picked Lionheart for its considerable shots at the rules. Chaired by Chineze Anyaene, producer/director of Ije, the 12-man team boasts of notable Nollywood stakeholders of international standing including Mahmood Ali-Balogun (vice chairman), Bruce Ayonote, Mildred Okwo, Shaibu Husseini, Charles Novia, CJ Obasi, Ramsey Nouah, Adetokunbo ‘DJ Tee’ Odubawo, Ngozi Okafor, Chioma Ude and Abba Makama.
According to Anyaene, entries received this year show significant improvements from the previous years. “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.
Every year, each country outside the United States is expected to submit one film as long as it’s not primarily in English. Films in pidgin, which must be subtitled like any other language film, are also considered under this category.
Formerly called ‘Best Foreign Language Film’, 87 countries vied for the shortlisted slots last year, and from a final five Oscar nominations, Roma, a Mexican film directed by Alfonso Cuarón, picked the honour.