Nigeria has only ever submitted three films to the Academy, and is yet to make the final shortlist.
Mami Wata has been selected as Nigeria’s pick for the 96th Academy Awards next year.
The announcement of the submission came as a great relief following weeks of silence from the Nigerian Official Selection Committee (NOSC) after the Academy’s October 2 deadline passed.
Alongside other countries across the world, Nigeria is allowed to make one submission for the International Feature Film (IFF) category. The award is for a feature-length motion picture produced outside the United States that contains 50% or more in a language or languages other than English.
Here are three feature films Nigeria has ever submitted for the Oscars:
Although the IFF category was previously known as Best Foreign Language Film prior to 2020 and had been in existence since the 1940s, Nigeria didn’t make its first submission until 2019.
Lionheart, directed by Genevieve Nnaji and produced by Chinny Onwugbenu in 2018, was submitted in 2019 for the 92nd Academy Awards held in 2020.
On November 4, 2019, the Academy rejected the film for breaching the 50% foreign language criteria. Lionheart‘s dialogue was in Igbo and Pidgin English but the latter wasn’t recognised as a foreign language at that time.
Lionheart, currently streaming on Netflix, tells the story of Adaeze Obiagu (Nnaji), who steps in for her father, Chief Ernest Obiagu (Pete Edochie), when he can no longer run his company due to health issues.
Written, produced and directed by Desmond Ovbiagele in 2020, The Milkmaid was selected as the Nigerian entry for the IFF category at the 93rd Academy Awards in 2021.
The Hausa feature film was the first Nigerian film the Academy accepted, but it didn’t eventually make the final shortlist that contended for the award.
The Milkmaid, currently streaming on Prime Video, follows the life of a Fulani milkmaid who confronts religious extremists in rural sub-Saharan Africa as she goes on a mission to find her missing sister.
Directed by CJ Obasi, one of the writers of Lionheart, Mami Wata, a black and white film in Pidgin English, has become the NOSC’s selection for the 96th Academy Awards in 2024.
The film’s submission breaks the two-year no-submission deadlock Nigeria has had at the Oscars and the fulfilment of the fight by the former NOSC head, Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi, to have Pidgin English included as a foreign language.
The IFF Executive Committee will determine whether it will be one of the films shortlisted to contend at the 96th Oscars ceremony on March 10, 2024.
Mami Wata tells the tale of an African mermaid in a village which runs into chaos due to disagreements between villagers and the goddess’ intermediary over the deteriorating state of the village.