Despite being a gigantic continent influenced by dramatic social changes, undergoing political unrest and turbulent economic transitions, Africa also possesses one of the richest cultural heritages in the world. In particular, over the past few decades, African cinema has begun to experience some international recognition but its hope of winning the Best International Feature Film (IFF) award (formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film) at the forthcoming Oscar Awards was once again dashed as all films submitted from the continent for the category have failed to make the 15-film pre-nomination shortlist.
The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) last week, announced the 15-film shortlist for the IFF category, excluding all the 10 films of African origin submitted. For Nollywood, however, this has turned out to be yet another bad, if not embarrassing year since it began submitting works to represent Nigeria on films’ biggest night, globally. Nigeria had achieved a first-time feat at the Academy last year with the country’s submission, ‘The Milkmaid’ by Desmind Ovbiagele, ratified by the Executive Committee of the IFF, having passed the eligibility rule test but dropped out of the race at the first shortlist category.
After calling for submissions in late September this year, the Nigeria Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC) had a month later announced cancellation of plans towards the country’s participation at the 2022 Oscars. The “film problem” in many African countries including our der Uganda can be narrowed down to a lack of infrastructure, stemming from apathetic governments and even private enterprise, where cinema is concerned. Filmmaking is an expensive practice, and, as is the case with any investment, the path to returns must be clear. Not many are willing to take the risk, especially when there are a multitude of more reliable opportunities to capitalize.
Most people here in Uganda and across the world agree that the Oscars that were started since 1929 are the biggest film awards in the world. They’re the most prestigious award anyone in the film business can win. They’re called the Oscars after the golden statue which is given out to the winners. No one’s quite sure why the statue’s called Oscar, but it’s rumored to be because one of the Academy members thought the statue looked a bit like her Uncle Oscar, and it stuck. It should be noted that they are only six African Movies that have ever made recent Oscar submissions and among these movies, South Africa has the record for the highest number of selections (with three movies). Nigeria comes in second place, with two films, while Cameroon makes it with one. Uganda is yet to get its first ever nomination but there is hope in some film makers.
Girl In The Yellow Jumper made it to Netflix, our next target is to try get an Oscar Nomination and later its win” said Kayongo Abas one of Uganda`s promising film makers. The last time a film representing an African country received a nomination was Kaouther Ben Hania’s “The Man Who Sold His Skin” representing Tunisia at the 93rd awards ceremony and the last time a film representing an African country won the category was South Africa’s “Tsotsi,” by Gavin Hood, at the 78th Oscars in 2006.
Africa continues to “rise” cinematically, however incrementally. Quantitative data is a hodgepodge, but one measure is international recognition for the work created. There’s the argument that cinema of the continent does not need to be legitimized by order of the West, and should instead insist on being appreciated on its own terms, much like other expressions of African creativity, especially music and dance, which have traveled widely without compromise, and have even been appropriated. It’s certainly a powerful argument, and a plausible scenario, but one that will be a
challenge to see realized in an increasingly interconnected world still wrangling with the lingering effects of colonialism.
Here are the 10 African films submitted for consideration:
– Algeria, Djaâfar Gacem’s “Heliopolis”
– Cameroon, Ngang Romanus’ “Hidden Dreams”
– Chad, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s “Lingui, The Sacred Bonds”
– Egypt, Ayten Amin’s “Souad”
– Kenya, Gilbert Lukalia’s “Mission to Rescue”
– Malawi, Gift Sukez Sukali’s “Fatsani: A Tale of Survival”
– Morocco, Nabil Ayouch’s “Casablanca Beats”
– Somalia, Khadar Ayderus Ahmed’s “The Gravedigger’s Wife”
– South Africa, Amy Jephta’s “Barakat”
– Tunisia, Abdelhamid Bouchnak’s “Golden Butterfly”
The 94th Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 27, 2022, and will be televised live on ABC.