The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences doubled down on their decision to disqualify Nigeria’s first-ever Oscar entry on Tuesday amid criticism from members of the filmmaking community.
The film at the center of the controversial decision, Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut Lionheart, was disqualified by the Academy on Monday because it did not meet the eligibility requirements of the International Feature Film category, which requires submitted films to be predominantly in a foreign language.
“In April 2019, we announced that the name of the Foreign Language Film category changed to International Feature Film. We also confirmed that the rules for the category would not change,” the Academy said in a statement Tuesday. “The intent of the award remains the same — to recognize accomplishment in films created outside of the United States in languages other than English.”
“As this year’s submitted films were evaluated, we discovered that Lionheart includes only 11 minutes of non-English dialogue, which makes it ineligible for this award category,” it added.
However, as director Ava DuVernay pointed out in a tweet criticizing the Academy’s decision, English is the official language of Nigeria, a former British colony, drawing into question the fairness of the film’s disqualification.
“To @TheAcademy,” DuVernay wrote on Monday. “You disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever submission for Best International Feature because its in English. But English is the official language of Nigeria. Are you barring the country from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language?”
Nnaji, who also stars in the film, responded to DuVernay’s tweet by thanking her, saying, “This movie represents the way we speak as Nigerians. This includes English which acts as a bridge between the 500+ languages spoken in our country; thereby making us #OneNigeria.”
The director and star of the film continued, “It’s no different to how French connects communities in former French colonies. We did not choose who colonized us. As ever, this film and many like it, is proudly Nigerian.”
Nicolas Cage to play Nicolas Cage in meta drama ‘The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent’
In a rather extremely unexpected development, Lionsgate is close to nearing a deal to acquire the rights to The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, a film that will find Nicolas Cage playing none other than Nicolas Cage, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The film, written by Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten, centers on a fictionalized version of Cage who “is desperate to get a role in a new Tarantino movie while also dealing with a strained relationship with his teenage daughter.”
The plot only gets more bizarre from there, however, as Cage “is also under a mountain of debt and finds himself forced to make an appearance at the birthday party of a Mexican billionaire, who happens to be a fan of Cage’s work.”
It isn’t long, though, before Cage finds out that the billionaire “is actually a drug cartel kingpin who has kidnapped the daughter of a Mexican presidential nominee,” and that he will need to go undercover for the United States government to gather intelligence.
Gormican and Etten’s script reportedly features references to Cage classics such as Face-Off, Leaving Las Vegas, and Gone in 60 Seconds, and is tonally similar to JCVD starring John Claude Van Damme and Get Shorty starring John Travolta.
Cage is currently in talks to join the meta movie project, which has Gromican attached to direct and Kevin Turen to produce along with Cage and Mike Nilon.
Taika Waititi’s ‘Next Goal Wins’ rounds out its cast as production gets underway in Hawaii
Fox Searchlight announced Wednesday that it has acquired worldwide rights to Next Goal Wins, writer-director Taika Waititi’s follow-up to his World War II satire Jojo Rabbit, which opened in theaters last month.
Production is currently underway in Honolulu, Hawaii on the film, which stars Michael Fassbender and Elisabeth Moss and tells the story of the American Samoa soccer team, who suffered the most devastating loss in World Cup history, losing to Australia 31-0 in 2001. With the 2014 World Cup approaching, the team recruits a down on his luck, maverick coach (Fassbender) to help turn their fate around.
In addition to Fassbender and Moss, the film’s cast also includes the likes of Oscar Kightley, Beulah Koale, Lehi Falepapalangi, Uli Latukefu, Rachel House, and Kaimana in their debut role.
“I’ve just started production on my next film Next Goal Wins,” Waititi said in a statement. “We have such an amazing cast and crew behind this film, and I’m stoked to be partnering once again with the lovely people at Fox Searchlight Pictures.”
Waititi wrote the script for Next Goal Wins along with Iain Morris, based on the 2014 documentary of the same name. Jonathan Cavendish, Garrett Basch, and Waititi are producers, with Andy Serkis, Will Tennant, and Kathryn Dean executive producing.
“Taika is an incredible talent and master at bringing honesty and humanity to the surface in any story. We are thrilled to be working with him again on such an extraordinary true story of perseverance in the face of defeat. He has brought together a terrific group of actors, craftspeople and sports players to bring this unique story to life,” said Matthew Greenfield and David Greenbaum, presidents of production at Fox Searchlight.
Ben Affleck struggles with alcohol addiction, recovery in Gavin O’Connor’s ‘The Way Back’ trailer
Warner Bros. has released the first trailer for The Way Back, which finds director Gavin O’Connor reuniting with his The Accountant star Ben Affleck for what appears to be a heavier sort of sports drama that explores alcohol addiction and recovery.
Affleck stars here as Jack Cunningham, a one-time high school sports prodigy whose life is spiraling downward due to the alcoholism that cost him his marriage and any hope for a better life for himself.
However, Jack’s opportunity for a better life eventually comes when he’s asked to go back to his alma mater to coach the basketball team, which has been underperforming and desperately needs new leadership in order to succeed this season.
Slowly but surely, the team starts to get their act together and manages to start winning some games, proving Jack’s ability to coach, but whether that’s enough to help him cope with his addiction and set him on the road to redemption remains to be seen.
Brad Ingelsby scripted the film, which is produced by O’Connor along with Gordon Gray, Jennifer Todd, and Ravi Mehta. Al Madrigal, Michaela Watkins, Janina Gavankar, and Glynn Turman also star alongside Affleck.
The Way Back opens in theaters March 6, 2020.