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Oscars: How the NOSC Can Redeem Itself
Biyi Bandele’s Elesin Oba premiered last night and industry stakeholders once again decried the NOSC debacle. How can the committee redeem its image?
This 2022’s selection for Nigerian submission to the Oscars has been eventfully scandalous. The procedure has been contested by the very committee that participated in it – a pointer to a house at war with itself. The crux of the contention is the introduction of the “No Film is Eligible” category, which some committee members and filmmakers at large are unhappy with.
The Nigerian Official Selection Committee (NOSC) has previously decided to submit or not. On the two occasions it submitted films to the Oscars, committee members voted amongst a list of eligible films. This is the first time films are contesting against a “No Film is Eligible” option . But members of the Committee still voted with it on the ballot on September 3rd, and it triumphed over the late Biyi Bamidele’s Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman (5), Adebayo Tijani and Tope Adebayo’s King of Thieves (1) and Kunle Afolayan’s Anikulapo (1) with eight votes.
This outcome left the committee in disharmony, with a few members resigning immediately after. Vice-chairperson, Mahmood Ali Balogun, invited the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to interfere in the matter; the Academy would rather not, as it puts total control of this phase of the selection process for the International Feature Film category to countries. Yet it did and asked the NOSC to reconvene to “make a final determination regarding a submission to the International Feature Film category”.
The meeting that ensued didn’t change much as the options made available by the chairperson were upholding or not upholding the September voting outcome. A majority of the committee still elected not to submit a film.
A recording of the meeting leaked to the public, and it revealed a dysfunctional house, a lack of transparency in the committee's operations and the heavy handedness of chairperson Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi. In the leaked video, we see the chairperson speaking and leading autocratically and with rumors that she unilaterally introduced the “No Film is Eligible” category, one wonders if this is the Nigerian official committee or her committee. Does she get to decide the way they vote, and the members are to follow—or is it open to the house?
The NOSC has not always submitted films to the Oscars and has not always explained why. It has been mostly due to ineligibility as most films put forward do not meet the primary criteria required. To be considered, a film must be publicly exhibited for at least seven days in its native country and the audio track must be predominantly non-English, amongst other things.
All three films in contention this year meet these requirements, yet the NOSC chose not to submit any without an official explanation. An action that has angered most people and has raised calls for the committee's disbandment, and even more desperate calls like getting the minister of information, Lai Mohammed, involved.
However, Nollywood stakeholders should avoid the mistake of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. On its part, the NOSC needs to show some good faith. The committee and its chairperson can redeem themselves and restore its integrity with some adjustments. It first needs to explain why it introduced this “No Film is Eligible” category. Given the country is the nominee in the International Feature Film category, Nigeria and Nollywood deserve an official explanation.
Secondly, it needs to clarify its stance on its voting process and lobbying, which have been the core problem in this kerfuffle. According to the NOSC guidelines, lobbying is highly prohibited and can lead to disqualification. Film producers with film in contention should not call members of the committee during the process. In the leaked video, we see veteran actress Omotola Jalade accuse the vice-chairperson of trying to lobby other committee members on behalf of a film. An act that goes against the committee’s voting rules. Mr. Ali Balogun denies the accusation, but Chairperson Chineze also referred to it and reminded committee members that this is grounds for disqualification of a film but, in her good mercy, she decided against it.
However, rules are rules. If the NOSC thinks a filmmaker or one of its members has broken its rules, it should disqualify the filmmaker’s film or punish its member according to its rules and explain to the public. Instead of papering over the cracks with an illegal category.
Finally, the NOSC needs to clarify its voting process. Nowhere in its guidelines or rules did it mention a “No Film is Eligible” category or option not to submit a film. Its objectives include "screening, selecting and submitting films that satisfy the eligibility rules for the International Feature Film category at the Oscars awards.” Given three of the films submitted to the NOSC this year are eligible, it should have selected one and submitted it.
If it decides against submitting a film to the Oscars, there should be a guiding process. When and how such a decision is made should be guided by rules everyone is familiar with and perhaps bound to.
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