Ava DuVernay speaks out against an Oscar disqualification

She called out the Academy for ruling out Nigeria's submission.

Words

Charles Bramesco

@intothecrevasse

Last night, Ava DuVernay took to Twitter to sound off against what she perceived as a misstep in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ selection process. The AMPAS selection committee responsible for sifting through the many submissions for the newly-renamed Best International Feature Film prize (formerly the Best Foreign Language Film) decided that Nigeria’s submission Lionheart would not be eligible for consideration, and DuVernay offered the following response:

As her post mentions and the linked article on The Wrap explains more fully, Lionheart contains scenes in the African language of Igbo, and yet the majority of dialogue in the film happens to be in the official national tongue of English. Films with more than 50% of dialogue in English cannot be nominated for the award, hence the category’s previous name of Foreign Language Film, implicitly ethnocentric as it may have been.

DuVernay’s point — that this is a Nigerian movie through and through, as “International” as anything else in contention for the shortlist — raises a curious quandary. If Lionheart were to be deemed fair game on the sole basis that it comes to America from lands abroad, that would open the floodgates of precedent.

If an American director procures some European money and makes an English-language film at a French studio, to what extent is that an “International” film? (Take the Grand Budapest Hotel, for instance, a co-production between Hollywood, the UK, and Germany. Or, to up the stakes a bit, the recent cinema of Woody Allen.) And then there’s the flip side, concerning American-produced films in a non-English language, currently ineligible — where would this leave them? (Ponder the example of Menashe, an all-Yiddish film shot in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood.)

The current protocol is flawed, clearly, but it may be the simplest and fairest we’ve got. It allows for diversity without gaming of the system, and requires Britain, Australia, Canada and other English-speaking territories to promote a multiplicity of voices. Look to the case of this year’s British submission, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s directorial debut The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Born in London, a native speaker of English shooting predominantly in Chichewa, he nonetheless makes Britain’s national cinema fuller by revealing the roots of its immigrant population. It’s just one small part of a collective effort to establish a rich, lively, and most importantly varied global cinema culture.

Published 5 Nov 2019

Tags: Academy Awards Ava DuVernay Oscars

Related Articles

BAFTA and the Academy are wrong to relegate technical awards

By Beth Webb

By denying the winners airtime, these major events are discrediting those at the very heart of the craft.

Academy considers gender fluid star in both male and female acting categories

By Tom Williams

Kelly Mantle makes Oscars history in victory for the trans community.

The Academy is getting into streaming – and that could be good news

By Charles Bramesco

Awards screeners will be available to view online, drastically changing the physics of voting.

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design