The Academy Yanks Nigeria’s Oscar Submission, and Proves That Hollywood Still Can’t Take African Cinema Seriously

Editor’s note: Noah Tsika teaches media studies at Queens College, City University of New York. His books include “Nollywood Stars” and a forthcoming history of film distribution and exhibition in Nigeria.

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently elected to remove Genevieve Nnaji’s Nigerian film “Lionheart” from the Oscar race — or, at least, from competition in the category now known as Best International Feature Film — it entered fraught territory: In a decision that stems from longstanding submission guidelines, the Academy ruled “Lionheart” ineligible because it’s an English-language production. But the outrage surrounding the ruling speaks to enduring debates about the postcolonial employment of European languages — the colonizers’ tongues — and why these debates remain so contentious.

The issue goes beyond this incident. Nigeria, and Nigerians, remain so unfamiliar to the Hollywood establishment that Ridley Scott’s production company, seemingly responding as much to the star
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