Again, No Foreign Language Oscar Entry For Nigeria



It will be a nil return for Nigeria and the Nigeria Oscars Selection Committee (NOSC) when entry closes next week for the Foreign Language category of the 2015 edition of the prestigious Academy Awards, otherwise called the Oscars. Since the inauguration of the Chineze Anyaene-led NOSC by the Academy of Motion Picture and Sciences in 2013, the committee has not been able to recommend a Nigerian entry for that category open to language films from all over the world. The decision to set up a selection committee for Nigeria meant that from 2013, films from Nigeria that meet the stipulated requirements can be submitted to compete with other titles across the globe under the ‘Foreign Language’ category.

So each year since its inauguration, NOSC calls for entries but the committee has not been able to find any Nigerian film good enough to compete in that coveted category. Chairman of the NOSC Anyaene who announced the call for entries in May 2015 said the committee was eagerly looking forward to selecting and submitting works that best represent the country.

“We just don’t want to be seen as a committee which put entries forward yearly. We want these entries to go as far as making the top five when the final Oscar nomination is announced,” the filmmaker who made the groundbreaking film Ice enthused.

But Anyaene confirmed during the week that the committee would not make any submission to Oscars this year as the committee couldn’t find any Nigerian movie that meets the stipulated requirement. Said Anyaene on the requirement, “First, it must be at least 80 percent language movie and secondly the movie must be very well subtitled and thirdly it must have been released in Nigeria between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015 and be publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theatre for the profit of the producer and exhibitor”.

Besides, Anyaene explained that the movie must be advertised and exploited during the theatrical release in a manner considered normal and customary to the industry.

She added, “The other thing is that the movie must be well helmed and produced and it does not need to have been released in the United States”.

If these are just some of the requirements for getting a movie to that category of the Oscars, how come Nollywood that has a thriving indigenous language industry has not been able to produce an entry for the Oscars?

Anyaene has an answer, “I think it is because we (and that includes me because I am first of all a filmmaker) have not really been thinking of how to internationalize our arts. We need to begin to look at the big picture. We need to begin to think of how we can open up the industry and it is by producing works that cut across our boundaries can we get the kind of recognition, international acceptance and acknowledgement that we need to grow. I know what a mention at the Oscars, even if it is mere nomination, will do to our local industry. It will turn attention to Nollywood just as Tutsi did to South Africa when they won it and just like Timbuktu did to Mauritania even though they merely got to the top five last year. So, it is something that we need to plan even from the stage of conception of a work”.

Though unhappy that the NOSC will be posting a nil return this year as well, Anyaene expressed the hope that by next year (2016) Nigeria will have something worthy to put forward.

She noted, “I have no doubt that we will have something worthy to present to the Academy next year for consideration. We are proposing to have an industry workshop as part of the 2015 Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) in Lagos. There we will shed more light on the requirement and really make stakeholders understand why we need to take our practice a notch higher. I think we need to challenge ourselves and we need all agencies like the Nigerian Film Corporation, the National Film and Video Censors Board and stakeholders to join forces with us so that we can together begin the journey of effectively internationalizing the industry. South Africans are joining forces, which is why they have something to present annually. We can do even better. And also, we need to begin to play the international politics of motion picture practice. We must open up our industry”.

Though Nigeria has no entry this year, other African countries like South Africa, Mauritius, Egypt and Morroco have sent in entries. For instance, Thina Sobabili, a film by Ernest Nkosi, has been confirmed as South Africa’s official entry for consideration into the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Oscars. The South African Academy Award selection committee and the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) made the announcement after intensive deliberations. Set in South Africa’s biggest township, the story of Thina Sobabili is a story of siblings; Thulani and Zanele, as they journey through life knowing that they have no one but each other to lean on. The movie, which marks Ernest Nkosi’s directorial debut, has won a lot of awards including the 2015 Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) and Jozi Film Festival’s Audience Choice Award.

If the film is approved by the Oscars Academy Award selection committee it will move forward to the next step of the Oscars selection process. And if it eventually makes the top five nominated best language films the well-helmed movie will join award-winning Tsetse (2006) and previously nominated Yesterday (2005) as South Africa’s representatives at the Oscars, which will be held on February 28, 2016.

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