*** As EbonyLife Studios Threatens Lawsuit
By Eva Irewole
The last has not been heard over the failure of the Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee (NOSC) to pick a Nigerian entry.
The 15-member Committee had last month voted not to have any of the three films in contention sent to the Oscars to vie for honours in the Best International Feature Film category, which was formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film category.
The curious decision by the committee had taken a bash in the public domain given the popularity of the three films from which the committee was meant to pick an entry.
Anikulapo by Kunle Afolayan has risen to be Netflix’s Number 1 film globally, with rave reviews less than three weeks after its premiere. Femi Adebayo’s Agesinkole (King of Thieves) was a box office hit before it was snapped by Amazon Prime, while Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman by the late Biyi Bandele had its global premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and is now set for Netflix release.
Eight members of the NOSC had voted that none of the films was eligible to go to the Oscars. Five members voted for Elesin Oba while the other two films got a vote each.
However, the situation took a new turn on Friday October 14, 2022 when the Academy wrote the Nigerian committee, granting them a five-day extension to reconstitute and repeat the voting process all over again.
In the letter jointly addressed to the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi and Mahmood Ali-Balogun respectively, the NOSC is now expected to submit a film to represent Nigeria latest by 5pm on Friday October 21, 2022.
It is the first time that the Academy is said to be extending such an unusual grace to a local selection committee over submission of an entry.
Deadline for submission had closed on October 3rd with NOSC insisting Nigeria had no entry for this year.
Egypt, the biggest filmmaking country in North Africa, which has been submitting films since 1958 up till last year also voted to opt out of submission this year, as majority of its 30-member Committee couldn’t reach a consensus on the four short-listed films.
But Egypt’s decision didn’t generate the kind of controversy that NOSC’s decision has generated, with several petitions sent either directly or via social media on why the decision of no-film-is-eligible should not stand.
But it is not clear if the three members of the committee who resigned in the heat of the moment would be recalled and allowed to vote, now that Nigeria has been granted an extention till October 21.
Frontline filmmaker, Mildred Okwo; journalist and film scholar, Dr. Shaibu Husseini and Actress/Producer, Ego Boyo, had resigned from the committee in the past weeks over the manner in which the committee’s chairperson is said to have conducted the process leading to a no-entry submission.
It is also not clear if the voting will be strictly for the three films in contention or if members can still vote not to recommend any of the films.
Meanwhile, the EbonyLife Studios, producers of Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman, has threatened to sue the NOSC.
TCN reliably gathered that the letter written on its behalf by its lawyers was in response to the notification letter it received from the NOSC informing it of the committee’s decision while insinuating that the studio, headed by Mo Abudu, has always been problematic.
The letter to EbonyLifeStudios had stated that “it is as though anytime EbonyLife Studios either makes an attempt to submit or submit to NOSC, there is almost an upheaval and elicited agitation fuelled by lobbyists within the committee and ellegedly induced by a third party.”
It is not clear why a formal letter from a supposedly impartial body to communicate result of its voting would contain a scathing and incriminating allegation against EbonyLife Studios.
In addition to Anyaene-Abonyi and Ali-Balogun, who are said to be at daggers drawn over how thing have turned out, the remaining 10 members of the committee are Stephanie Linus, Keneth Gyang, John Njamah, Meg Otanwa and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde.
Others are Izu Ojukwu, Adetokunbo ‘DJ Tee’ Odubawo, Yibo Koko, Moses Babatope and Bruce Ayonote.
If only the remaining 12 members vote, it is not clear how resolution would be achieved if there is a tie, since each member has a vote each.
However, it was reliably gathered that many of the committee members are determined not to vote ‘non-eligible’ this time around and that the choice of selection might be a straight fight between Elesin Oba and Anikulapo.
*** As EbonyLife Studios Threatens Lawsuit