Two key members of the Nigerian Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC), Mildred Okwo and Dr. Shaibu Husseini, have left the body charged with selection of films that will represent Nigeria each year at the Oscar Awards under the International Feature Film category.
Okwo, a lawyer-turned filmmaker and Husseini, a culture journalist, artiste and film scholar, resigned their positions as voting members on the controversial committee within a week of each other.
Both offered little or veiled reasons for their sudden exit from the body comprising 15 top motion picture industry professionals.
Okwo, a frontline female director announced her resignation on twitter on September 29, 2022 with the message: “this is my last year working on the Nigerian Official Selection Committee. I am proud of those in the Nigerian film space working hard to make films good enough to travel the world and to make it to the Academy’s foreign language category competition. We will win this award some day.
“Thank you to members of the committee who through the years have championed us putting our best foot forward. It’s time for me to move on and serve the industry I other ways,” the director of La Femme Anjola stated.
Similarly for the Kogi-born Dr. Husseini, the announcement of his resignation from the NOSC also came in a terse message posted on his twitter account on Sunday evening, October 2.
The message, in which he copied the Academy of Motion Pictures of America, read:
“I have formally notified the Chairperson of the NOSC of my resignation as a member of the Nigerian Official Selection Committee for the Academy Awards IFF Submission. I wish the other members of the committee well in their quest to serve the film industry well.”
With their resignation, Okwo and Husseini have become the third and fourth members who have left the committee since inception in 2013.
First to leave was filmmaker, writer and record label owner, Charles Novia, ostensibly on personal grounds.
Also, the founder of African International Film Featival and a director of Envivo, Chioma Ude, exited the Committee a couple of years back.
However, the two latest resignations came on the heels of the committee’s controversial decision not to recommend any film for the Academy’s consideration this year.
The curious decision was reached last month after eight members out of 15 voted that none of the three films under consideration was eligible to compete in the much-coveted IFF category, which used to be known as Best Foreign Language Film.
The three films rejected by the committee are: Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman by the late Biyi Bandele; Kunle Afolayan’s Anikulapo and Femi Adebayo-produced Agesinkole (King of Thieves). All are epic films shot substantially in Yoruba language.
In rejecting the films, the NOSC had argued that “Although the committee received three epic films following its call for submissions in August, it turned out that none of them will advance to the next stage owing to the voting patterns of members.
“Our filmmakers are (however) implored to get more acquainted with Oscar-nominated films in the IFF category to achieve the needed internationsl recognition and put our films in its acclaimed level of creative discourse.”
Although it was reliably learnt that Dr. Husseini was among the seven members who voted in support of having a submission, TCN could not at this point establish that his resignation is in any way linked to the fact that none of the film was recommended simply because more people voted “non-eligible.”
The voting pattern showed that five of the members voted in favour of Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman; while Anikulapo and Agesinkole had one vote each.
It was also gathered that even if all the seven members had voted for the same film, it would still not have gotten such a film recommended since eight members voted not to have any film sent. By Oscar policy, the simple majority rule applies with members not allowed to change their votes after result has been announced.
Our reporter learnt that the outcome of the vote created hot arguments and bad blood among NOSC members, with those in favour of a film to be submitted holding the view that the Committee has not been convincing in the specific reasons, technically and artistically speaking, on why none of the films is considered Oscar-worthy.
It was learnt that the bad blood that the controversial decision generated has continued with a member of the committee allegedly petitioning the Academy in Los Angeles, USA to remove the committee’s chairperson, Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi for “high-handedness and personalising the running of affairs of the committee.”
Our reporter reliably gathered that two top executives of the Oscar Academy are scheduled to visit Nigeria in November for larger industry-related activities but are being expected to address issues that will also include eligibility of submission; composition and tenure of a local selection committee.
Since the NOSC was inaugurated in 2013, it has only managed to present a film for Oscars’ consideration only once when Desmond Ovbiageli’s ‘The Milkmaid’ was selected in 2020, although the film failed to make it to the nomination stage.
Nigeria’s entry in 2019, Genevieve Nnaji’s ‘Lionheart’ was disqualified by the Academy after it was submitted by the NOSC. Before then, between 2013 and 2018, it found no Nigerian film worthy of consideration.
With these resignations, the committee still has 13 members left, which include those added to the fold this year.
On the NOSC line-up are film directors Stephanie Linus and Keneth Gyang; actors John Njamah and Meg Otanwa; Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde and director Izu Ojukwu.
Others are filmmakers Mahmood Ali-Balogun; Ego Boyo; Adetokunbo ‘DJ Tee’ Odubawo and Yibo Koko as well as the Managing Director of FilmOne Entertainment, Moses Babatope and CEO of Legend Box Office, Bruce Ayonote.