Nigeria: Actors guild advises filmmakers on improved movie production to make Oscars awards

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The Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN) has advised Nollywood actors on improved film production and jettison all forms of internal conflicts capable of distracting them from submitting qualitative movies for subsequent Oscars awards.

Mr Victor Okhai, the DGN National President, gave the advice in a statement on Tuesday in Lagos.

Okhai gave the advice against the backdrop of the recent media exchanges between the Nigerian Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC) and Nollywood filmmakers.

He said this had generated concern among Nigerians over the country’s lack of representation at the 2023 Oscars.

He noted that rather than allow this to cause internal rancour, Nollywood actors should remain focused on production of qualitative films.

“Nigerian filmmakers approach their craft differently because they are all driven by the desire to win the Oscars.

“They do this, rather than by the need to ensure that the films they are submitting to the International Feature Film (IFF) category of the Academy Awards are technically and artistically up to par,” he said.

Okhai noted that that Nigerian films were not eligible for submission at the awards ceremony due to a number of factors.

He said some of the factors included lack of funding for collaborations and technical support from foreign institutions.

He explained that meeting minimum tech specs and strict adherence to the requirements for qualification and submission instead of whipping up sentiments remained a basic challenge.

He said prior to the establishment of the Nigerian Oscar Committee in 2013, Nollywood productions frequently failed to meet the technical requirements of a cinema film due to the emphasis on home videos.

“With the emergence of multiple streaming platforms, they appear to be more promising, but it remains to be seen how far and sustainable the current trend will last.

“The Nigerian film industry is attempting to demonstrate that it can compete favourably with other developing film nations throughout the world.

“Even if the quality of Nollywood productions improve, an Oscar nomination or win is not certain as we continue to drag ourselves out there, especially when the Oscars are coming up.

“The Oscars are merely a marketing game in which anyone who can attract attention can win, the quality of films at the Oscars will not depreciate, as good films will always stand out.

“National interests should take precedence over personal interests, as the Oscar is not the beginning and end of the world, Nigerian filmmakers should focus on making good films and avoid dragging ourselves before the Oscars,” he said.

According to him, to be eligible for the Academy Awards, a film must also meet a number of additional requirements, such as being dominated by the native language of the country it represents.

“Another requirement is that the film must be released during the calendar period mandated by the Oscars, having appropriate English subtitles,” he said.

He added that the film must have been seen in cinemas or theatres for at least seven days in the nation it represents before being shown on streamers like Netflix, Amazon, and terrestrial television.

“In 2019, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences caused a stir by disqualifying the first Oscar entry from Nigeria’s massive film industry.

“The submission of the film was seen as a watershed moment for the country’s film industry, a film called “Lionheart,” which is Genevieve Nnaji’s first directing debut that met every other requirement.

“And it was disqualified from the International Feature category because the 95-minute film, Lionheart is largely in English, with an 11-minute section in the Igbo language.

“The decision prompted widespread outrage and criticism in the Nigerian, British, and American film industries, with many blaming colonialism rather than Nigerian filmmakers.

“Nigerians’ expectations were dashed once more when “The Milkmaid,” a Hausa language insurgency thriller, produced and directed by Desmond Ovbiagele, failed to make the first shortlist of the 15 foreign films chosen for the International Feature Film category in December 2020,” he said.

Okhai noted that in nearly 75 years, just three African films had won the Oscars for best foreign feature.

He said in spite the enormity of Bollywood’s film industry, India had never won the award for best international film as the category had been dominated by Europe.

“Can we begin by winning top film festivals, where we can compete on the global stage with the best, can we focus solely on winning our own top film festivals?

“The world, like our colleagues in music, accepted and applauded our stars before the Grammys, quality comes first, followed by recognition.

“With the kind of production that has been coming out of the business in recent times, we are well on our way.

“The Oscars will find us at the right time if we focus more on the work that we do, the recognition that we get from the work that we do is far more valuable than any validation that will come from any external source,” he said.