Photograph — TECHZIM
‘Lionheart,’ a Netflix original film directed by Genevieve Nnaji has scored an Oscars Selection for International Feature Film. Produced by Chinny Onwugbenu, Chichi Nwoko and Genevieve Nnaji, the film is Nigeria’s first ever entry to the Oscars.
Starring Pete Edochie, Nkem Owoh, Onyeka Onwenu, Genevieve Nnaji, Kanayo .O. Kanayo, Chika Okpala, Kalu Ikeagwu, Sanni Mu’azu, and others, the film tells a story of a woman (Adaeze) who takes the reins of her father’s business after he falls ill. Thus taking viewers through this journey  alongside family obligations.

About 5 years since the inauguration of the Nigeria Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC), Nigeria has finally made its debut among other films seleted this year. In an interview with Ventures Africa,  NOSC chairperson Chineze Anyaene speaks on this feat, what the selection means for nollywood and the future of film in Nigeria.

Ventures Africa (VA)-Tell us about the Oscar selection process. What is it like?


Chineze Anyaene (CA)- The Nigerian Oscar selection process,  starts with us putting out films, press releases to the public, and then we also approach filmmakers and put filmmakers we think that have a chance. And when they submit to us we screen it. After screening we, do like a secret ballot voting. So, it’s more like the Emmys. And once the count of vote is completed, the best film which gets a higher vote gets picked and submitted. You also have to remember this is a 12-man committee. This consists of people from different parts of the industry; editing, cinematography, scriptwriting, directing, producing and acting. So we look at the various parts of the industry and then make a decision after we’ve voted.

VA-What are the metrics/standard a movie has to meet to qualify for an Oscar selection (shortlist)?

(CA)-First of all, you must have screened in the country for at least seven consecutive days. And not just screen because you are going to screen. And also, you must also publicize your release in a manner in which this is done universally. It has to be predominantly foreign language and that includes pidgin as well. Your picture quality, in terms of it has to be submitted in the minimum of 4*kibs*, DCPs or celluloid preferably. You also don’t have to screen in any public event before your theatrical release. Once you screen in any public event or raise on BOD or airlines or any public space before your theatrical release then you’d be disqualified. Also, you have the audio quality as well it has to be 5.1 or 7.1. If you don’t have the 5.1 or 7.1, you’d have to have the left-right centre audio. And a lot of specifications that are required from the academy, and a lot of technical specifications. But most importantly the story has to be good. And there has to be attention to details. Meaning from makeup to wardrobe to the screenplay. Also, keep your plot very simple, I guess because that’s one thing that makes a film very interesting as well, then your characters should be centralised. People must like your characters. Everything starts with a good screenplay, good story.

VA-Why Lion Heart?

CA- As I mentioned, it’s a 12-man committee and we had shortlisted a submission of 6 films. And then we all voted and Lion Heart came top. So that was the decision of the committee. It was a democratic process. And it was secret ballot and lionheart came tops. We also had other films that were in competition with Lion Heart. we had “Mokalick”, we also had “King of Boys”, “Up North”, “Kasal”, “Delivery Boy”. These films are all good films but at the end of the day we had to vote and Lion Heart came tops.

VA-The NOSC has been in operation for five years, why is this Nigeria’s first submission?

CA-The last five years, the committee has been sending out press releases and we have been approaching filmmakers. But for some reason, most of them didn’t meet up the criteria. We think it was strong enough. And you know, with the Academy, you don’t have to submit every year if don’t have a good film. And I guess we were too strict at a time, trying to make sure everything hits everywhere. But the Nigerian economy has improved. People are becoming more aware. People know that they have to lobby or play on the international stage as well.

VA-What does this selection mean for Nollywood? What impact would it have on the industry?

CA-This submission is big, first of all, and I must say it’s a submission for the industry and not a nomination at the academy. It’s a country submission. This submission made a huge impact because people are now aware that at least we have one leg in to be able to even submit a film to the Academy.  You know, this Academy seems far fetched. And number 2, if we get nominated or even selected or even an Oscar win, this will be a huge impact in the industry because there’ll be a lot of cultural exchange, it would bring a lot of investors, all eyes would be on Nollywood and this would transcend down to like the different filmmakers from different sectors. That’s more jobs, more creativity and more inspiration. At least this will inspire a lot of people. and I think that the fact that we even submitted has inspired a lot of people to go pay more attention to details and make more movies of better quality. not just shooting the basic regular, low budget stories.

VA- There seems to have been a controversy with regards to transparency trailing the NOSC’s selection process. Critics say a general call for submission was put out after there was already a shortlist and that Nigeria’s film-watching public was ignored throughout the entire process. Kindly comment on this

CA-It is very interesting when people say that.  As a committee, you are always on the lookout for films that will meet the criteria. Even as it is right now, we are looking out for the films that would meet next year’s and am penning them down. As soon as we got the approval from the academy,  which happened around the 10th of September, we started contacting filmmakers immediately, we sent out a press release, and continued to contact filmmakers that we thought made the cut. And we got 14 films. So there was no shortlist before. It was after we got the 14 films, we shortlisted to 6 films. Which we then deliberated and voted on. And yes, we had to reach out to filmmakers and let them know we’re looking at their films and also encourage them. So it’s not like there are any controversies, it was a very transparent thing. We have a video online. And like I said, it was secret ballot. People voted for the film they thought was eligible enough to be submitted to represent Nigeria.

VA-Moving forward, what can Nollywood do to be guaranteed an Oscar selection/submission every year?

CA– I think we need to pay attention to five things. We need to pay attention to details, number 1. And paying attention to details means that every minute thing in filmmaking is considered. From screenplay to cinematography and even from makeup, to hair. Everything is very good. And most importantly, keep your plot very simple. People don’t like complicated plots. Your stories should be very simple and your characters should be loved and liked because people should be able to identify with your characters. If people do identify with your characters, they get confused. How your film ends is very important. Basically, it’s just film 101. If you know what it is to make a professional film, then you’d know the basic of making a good movie. So, I think, first of all, we need to tell our stories. Tell more stories in our indigenous language with 50 percent and above and that includes pidgin.  Nigeria is rich in culture and rich with tourism. And we are very good with telling stories but the problem is how do we transfer that ability to screenplay? So, I think a lot of research and a lot of good storytelling need to be told professionally so we need to professionally shoot films, tell our stories the way it is done in the Western world because the story is universal. I don’t think there’s anything different. You can watch a Korean film and understand it.

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