Ronke Apampa writes on Lionheart

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Lion heart, a film by Nollywood superstar cum debutante director, Genevieve Nnaji continues to generate a seeming unending controversy. Recently, it was disqualified by the Oscars board for being predominantly English language after it was entered to compete in the Best International Feature Film category .The Oscar Awards committee in Nigeria has been under fire for erroneously submitting a movie which failed to meet an obvious key criteria ie language. Everyone is asking for the heads of the commitee members which in my supposition is unfair and lacks reasonableness. I have spotted at least four to five people with skeletons in their cupboards who did not resign from their respective positions because of issues they committed in the past which can be considered sacrilegious. They are among those in the forefront of this highly hypocritical campaign. It reminds me of my Daddy Jesus and His famous writing on the ground regarding the adulterous woman. As a graduate of law, allow me to apply the same precedent. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

This is not one of those women supporting women “mediocrish” nonsense. I watched Lion Heart, and must confess it may not be everyone’s favourite movie. I personally congratulated my dear sister Genevieve as soon as news filtered about her directorial debut, this was way before I saw the movie. I absolutely love this lady and commend her for taking a bold step at directing her first film; a path many women dare to thread. Against all odds she also got Netflix to invest in her project after battling with the dons of Nollywood for acceptance. I have heard a lot of people wonder how she managed to achieve these feat, according to them Lion Heart is undeserving of all the accolade. Guess what peeps, there’s something called Favour and it happens even when you are seemingly unworthy of something. I believe Genevieve is favoured and there are lessons to be learnt from all this brouhaha.

What if Lion Heart won? You would have seen a lot of hypocrisy on display, typical of the world we live. Everyone will be sending congratulatory messages upandan. I can’t fail to overemphasise the issue of Frenemies. People who pretend to be friends waiting for you to fail. Just take a minute to/and imagine the frenzied reaction if Lion Heart scaled the nomination hurdle then goes on to win. Some people would have taken out a page in the dailies to send congratulatory messages. Success has many friends they say. Genevieve would have been the toast of many instead of the “roast” she has become on social media a la grilla.

The most important lesson here is paying attention to detail and doing your homework properly because hawks are waiting to devour you if you fail. From what I gathered, this is Nigeria’s first ever Oscar submission for best International feature film. The commitee should have painstakingly done their due dilligence. Maybe out of sentiment or even outright politics (which I hear is also prevalent at the Oscars) Lion Heart was chosen out of several Nigerian movies by the commitee. Probably out of excitement or otherwise, proper attention was not given to award guideline hence the great “embarassment” of disqualification. In my own opinion, even if it was a case of sentiment, issues like this happen everywhere. At workplaces, a lot of people are in their position today even though they are not as qualified for the role. So I hope we all agree that the error here is not the choice of movie but the grave error of not paying attention to detail and deliberately or indeliberately ignoring laid down rules of a competition.

Secondly my advice to Genny which is same to Nigerian politicians considering running again in 2023, is to go back to the drawing board and take a good look at where you erred. Start preparation in earnest. You are now fully aware of the criteria, work extensively on your movies. Back then if someone repeats a year at school it’s an opportunity to be ahead of the class in the next year. As they say, turn these lemons people are throwing at you to a chilled glass of lemonade. Ride on the wave of publicity this whole fiasco has generated and once the storm is calm you can sip your lemonade gleefully as you count your proceeds in different currency. Bask in this euphoria whilst it lasts dear, beautiful Queen with the heart of a lion. In the mean time stay off Social media and try not to politicize the whole affair. You are the one who applied to win an Oscar not the other way round so no amount of emotional blackmail from you or teeming fans will change the decision. Please don’t add insult to injury of what was a narrow miss at Nigeria’s first potential Oscar win. Nomination alone would have been victory not just for Lion Heart but the Nollywood industry and Nigeria. Nigerians are aghast and totally gobsmacked we lost an opportunity to redeem ourselves in a positive way via entertainment after so much negativity this year. Once again, we painfully recall those nostalgic moments of loss akin to Super Eagles fumbling at the world cup for obvious unpreparedness and lackadaisical attitude. Plus dealing with the embarrasment and snickering from the International community for failing to adhere to simple instruction despite our so called knowledge of English Language.

Afrobeats is what it is today because of its originality. It is gradually becoming a global phenomenon and our artistes are winning laurels because of the indigenous appeal. Wizkid would probably not have had the kind of global acclaim he has if his music was void of any Africaness and he decided to sound like Chris Brown. Foreigners are now miming along to our languages and keen to understand what it means. We have also seen a rise in oyinbos embracing our culture.

Finally, I see this as a wake up call to appreciate our rich African culture and celebrate who we are. I don’t think we do this enough instead we are quick to consume everything the West is churning out either good or bad. We are gradually becoming an extension of a “Foreign” land. Infact the more Foreign you are the more chances of you being appreciated. Celebration of Halloween, a recent case study. Permit me to digress, how is this African fa? It will be painful if an “Oyinbo Princess” successfully uses our African culture to produce an indigenous language movie, submits for Oscar and wins. What a shame that will be. If we fail to appreciate the precious gift we have someone else will use it and run with it. This is an opportunity to reevaluate ourselves as Africans and proudly embrace our heritage.

What I think the International community is saying to us is concise. Nigerians, we know you speak English (sometimes more than those of us whose mother and father tongue is English), we can see evidence in Chimamanda and the rest of brilliant Nigerians spread across the globe. If you want to compete in Foreign language film category, it must be as stated. We want to savour the authenticity of your African movie potpourri seasoned with a truckload of indigenous cultural display. We created that category strictly to celebrate the beauty of language and how well you can tell your story to a “foreign” audience. We are curious about you; your culture, your fashion and most importantly your African story. By all means tell your story, we are itching to watch, but please tell it in your indegenous tongue not the “colonized” or borrowed one.

Let me stop here for now so I can start hunting for what to wear on the famous Oscar red carpet. Adire and Aso Oke is not be a bad idea lest I get “disqualified” for not representing the continent of Africa. My gele will be spectacular, (madam Kofo will jealous me) it must slay and trend. Who knows, my gele may “mistakenly” brush my forever crush, Michael B Jordan. Voila! our gaze lock and I become his African Queen in the beautiful land of Wakanda. The rest will be history as they say. See you at Oscar 2021 where Nigeria, hopefully will be the cynosure of all eyes as she receives the prestigious Academy award. Thank you

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