- Nigeria’s submission for Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards, Lionheart, has been disqualified because the majority of the film’s dialogue is in English.
- According to the Academy’s rules, an international film must have a “predominantly non-English dialogue track.”
- Critics like Ava Duvernay pointed out that this rule would essentially bar Nigeria from submitting a film to this category in its official language, which is English. Lionheart can still be submitted for other awards, but it is rare to see a foreign film in slots like Best Picture.
- This has prompted an online discussion on the Academy’s rules and what it should mean to be a considered foreign film.
“Lionheart” Disqualified from Oscars Entry
Leaders in the film industry are speaking out after Nigeria’s first submission to the Acadamy Award’s Best International Feature Film category was disqualified for being primarily in English.
According to a report from The Wrap, The Acadamy sent out an e-mail Monday announcing that Lionheart is no longer eligible for the award formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film. Lionheart was directed by Nigerian actress and filmmaker Genevieve Nnaji, who also stars in the film.
Of the film’s 95 minute run, less than 15 minutes are in Igbo, a language native to Nigeria, and the rest is in English. The Academy defines an international film as “a feature-length motion picture (defined as over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track.” English, however, is Nigeria’s official language.
When the Oscars initially announced the list of submitted films in October, Lionheart appeared on the list, but it had not yet been reviewed by the International Feature Film Award Executive Committee. A recent viewing prompted the disqualification and an upcoming screening of the film for voters has been canceled.
Reactions to the Disqualification
Because Nigeria’s official language is English, this decision sparked backlash from members of the film community. Director, writer, and producer Ava Duvernay, who is behind projects like Selma and When They See Us, tweeted to the Academy about the news.
Nnaji shared Duvernay’s tweet saying Lionheart “represents the way we speak as Nigerians.”
She also compared Nigeria’s use of English to former French colonies’ relationship with France and the French language.
The idea of colonization became a major talking point in the online discussion of Lionheart’s disqualification. Nigeria was colonized by the British, which is why English is spoken there to begin with.
“So now we are getting penalised for having been colonised by Britain?” writer and journalist Afua Hirsch asked.
“You really can’t win with this lot. Quite literally cannot win,” added journalist Samira Sawlani.
Discussion on Academy Rules
The news of Nigeria being barred for submitting a film in its own official language started a discussion on what it should mean to be classified as a foreign or international film, as well as discussion over how the Oscars should adopt this in their rules. Lulu Wang, who wrote and directed The Farewell, asked questions about how we should define these concepts.
One user pointed out that other award shows have updated their rules after people protested them for being outdated or unfair.
Another suggested that there be two categories for foreign films so more could be included and the rules could be applied in a more even manner.
The Nigerian Oscar Selection Committee responded to the Academy’s decision themselves. In a statement obtained by Variety, they said that many movies in the Nigerian film industry use English to obtain a wider reach.
“The budding Nigerian film industry is often faced with producing films with wide reach which often makes the recording dialogue predominantly English with non-English infusions in some cases,” they said.
They later added that this disqualification was “an eye-opener and step forward into growing a better industry” that could urge filmmakers “to shoot with the intention of non-English recording dialogue as a key qualifying parameter to represent the country in the [contest for the] most prestigious award.”
The Academy has not made a statement on the matter. Lionheart is still eligible to submit itself for Best Picture and other awards. Foreign-produced films, however, rarely make it to these slots and none have ever won the top prize.
See what others are saying: (The Wrap) (Variety) (Los Angeles Times)
“Don’t Worry Darling” Tops the Box Office Amid Bad Press
Audiences are already giving the film higher praise than critics did.
Young Women Flock to “Don’t Worry Darling”
Weeks of controversies and rumors did not prevent “Don’t Worry Darling” from finding victory at the box office, with the Olivia Wilde-directed thriller debuting at number one over the weekend and raking in $19.2 million.
Wilde also acted in the mid-century mystery, which starrs Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, and Gemma Chan.
Women led ticket sales for the picture, comprising 66% of the audience, according to several reports. At least partially due to the appeal of Styles, crowds also skewed young, with over half under the age of 25.
Overseas, the film made over $10 million, bringing its total for the weekend to $30 million. That number is especially impressive since the R-rated drama had a budget of $35 million.
“Don’t Worry Darling” had been plagued with weeks of rumors about behind-the-scenes drama leading up to its release. Among other bouts of gossip, many online speculated that Pugh and Wilde had riffs on set, leading to Pugh’s refusal to promote the project. One report alleged the two got into a screaming match, but sources on set denied it.
Wilde and Shia LeBeouf, who was originally cast in the picture, also got into a public he-said-she-said about whether he quit the film or was fired.
The drama hit a boiling point during its premiere at the Venice Film Festival when Twitter users circulated a video they claimed showed Styles spiting on Pine, though both parties have denied that allegation.
A Film Riddled With Rumors
Furthering the bad press were the bad reviews. Critics largely panned the film, sticking it with a 38% on Rotten Tomatoes. After this first weekend, moviegoers seem to have a more favorable outlook, as it has a 79% audience score as of Monday.
Jeff Goldstein, the distribution chief for Warner Bros., told the Associated Press that “the background noise” caused by these controversies “had a neutral impact” on its box office haul. The studio released a statement saying it was pleased with the movie’s earnings.
Some analysts believe that, if anything, the online gossip and fodder may have aided the film’s box office performance.
In a tweet recapping the weekend’s box office, Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, said the “drama sparked a huge wave of interest.”
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Box Office Mojo) (New York Times)
Senators Introduce Legislation Requiring Radios to Pay Royalties to Artists
Sen. Padilla argued the bill is necessary to give artists the “dignity and respect they deserve.”
The American Music Fairness Act
Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the American Music Fairness Act to the Senate on Thursday, a bill that would require radio stations to pay royalties to performers and rights holders.
The bill was previously introduced to the House last year. According to a release, the United States is the only democratic country where artists are not compensated for their music’s use on AM or FM radio. While songwriters and publishers receive payment, these stations have never been required to give a slice of the pie to performers and copyright holders.
On streaming and satellite radio, however, both groups receive royalty payments.
In a statement, Padilla said it is time the country starts treating “our musical artists with the dignity and respect they deserve for the music they produce and we enjoy every day.”
“California’s artists have played a pivotal role in enriching and diversifying our country’s music scene,” he added. “That is why passing the American Music Fairness Act is so important.”
“From Beale Street to Music Row to the hills of East Tennessee, the Volunteer State’s songwriters have undeniably made their mark,” Blackburn echoed. “Tennessee’s creators deserve to be compensated for their work. This legislation will ensure that they receive fair payment and can keep the great hits coming.”
The American Music Fairness Act would require terrestrial radio broadcasters to pay royalties to music creators when their songs are played. It would also protect smaller stations that either make less than $1.5 million in annual revenue or who have a parent company that makes less than $10 million in annual revenue by letting them play unlimited music for under $500 a year.
The bill would also require other countries to pay American artists for the use of their work.
Support From Major Music Groups
The legislation is endorsed by a number of groups, including the Recording Academy, SAG-AFTRA, and the American Federation of Musicians.
If passed, the bill could move a lot of money into the pockets of performers. According to the Recording Academy, when American music gets international airplay, other countries collect royalties for American artists, amounting to around $200 million every year. However, they “never pay those royalties because the U.S. does not reciprocate with our own performance right.”
Fran Drescher, President of SAG-AFTRA, argues that the money belongs to the artists.
“Broadcast companies profit from advertising sales because of the creative content musicians and singers record. It stands to reason that the performers who create the content deserve to be compensated just as songwriters are now,” Drescher said in a statement. “The reason it’s called the American Music Fairness Act is because the current situation is wholly unfair and it’s up to Congress to make it fair NOW!”
Last year, Representatives Steve Womack (R-AR) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) introduced the Local Radio Freedom Act, a bill with essentially the opposite agenda. It aims to reserve radio’s royalty-free status. The American Music Fairness Act is being viewed as a counter-response to this bill.
Kanye West Says Catalog Is Potentially Being Sold Without His Permission: “Just Like Taylor Swift”
After Swift lost the rights to her life’s work, she took on the endeavor of re-recording her first six albums.
Kanye’s Catalog Potentially Up For Grabs
Following reports that Kanye West was considering selling his catalog, the artist took to Instagram on Tuesday to claim his work is potentially being sold without his approval.
On Monday, Billboard reported that West had been “quietly and intermittently shopping his publishing catalog.”
While the outlet’s sources did not reveal what price West was aiming for, Billboard estimated that West might be looking at a $175 million valuation for his discography. Some of Billboard’s sources seemingly suggested that West and his team were specifically behind the effort to sell his work, but others claimed the “catalog was never actively shopped” and instead, West had been receiving offers from potential buyers.
Not long after, several news outlets picked the story up and reported that West was gearing up to sell his catalog. West responded by writing on his Instagram story that this was not the case.
“Not For Sale”
“Just like Taylor Swift,” he said, referencing music mogul Scooter Braun purchasing Swift’s masters with Big Machine Records without her approval. “My publishing is being put up for my sale without my knowledge. Not for sale.”
Swift referred to the sale of her masters to Braun as her “worst case scenario.” In order to regain ownership of her work, she is in the process of re-recording her first six albums, all of which she originally made under Big Machine. Two have already been released and proved to be wildly commercially successful.
According to Forbes, it is unclear which of his albums West owns the masters to, if he owns any at all. Because of this, it is unknown what kind of position he would be put in if his catalog, which is currently managed by Sony, was sold.
The status of any potential for his work to be sold became foggier later on Tuesday when West shared screenshots of a text exchange he had. He asked an unidentified person what was happening with the catalog sale, and that person responded by calling it “fake news.”
“Of course every publisher wants to pitch [their] hardest buy, smh,” the text continued.
West did not further indicate if those texts were meant to clarify that his catalog was, in fact, not up for sale, or just further distance himself from any potential acquisition.