2023 Oscars: Nigeria’s Absence & International Feature Film Submissions From Africa

Nigeria will not submit a film in the 95th Academy Awards

About a week ago, the Nigerian Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC) announced that Nigeria will not have any representation at the 2023 Oscars Awards. The committe’s chairperson Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi shared that NOSC were unable to find any film that met the eligibility criteria for the International Feature Film category.

“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,” she told newspersons. The NOSC committee, which includes Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Mildred Okwo and Kenneth Gyang, among others, recorded a voting pattern of 8:5:1:1, with “no film is eligible” votes having the upper hand.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by NG Official Selection Cmte. (@officialnosc)

This is the second year in a row that Nigeria will not be submitting a film for the international award, since it submitted Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart in 2019 and Desmond Ovbiagele’s The Milkmaid in 2020. The Academy Award for Best International Feature Film—known as Best Foreign Language Film before 2020—recognises feature-length motion pictures produced outside the United States with predominantly (more than 50%) non-English dialogue. Aside from feature-length films, the category accepts animated and documentary features. 

Since the creation of the Best International Feature Film category, only three African countries have clinched the prize: Algeria, Ivory Coast and South Africa. The films include the 1969 political thriller Z (directed by Greek-French film director Costa-Gavras), the 1976 black comedy and war film Black and White in Color (directed by French film director Jean-Jacques Annaud) and the 2005 crime drama Tsotsi (directed by South African filmmaker Gavin Hood).

Despite Nigeria’s revered place in the African film industry, which it secured in the 1990s, it was until 2019 that the country first submitted an entry with Lionheart and the film was disqualified for not meeting the dialogue requirement. The Milkmaid passed the eligibility test but didn’t make the first shortlist in the category. What Nigeria’s film industry, popularly called Nollywood, possesses in quantity, it lacks in quality, most especially as regards storytelling and technical concerns.

Recently, a DW report interrogated the absence of African films on the world stage, citing financial constraints and non-existent international marketing as some of the issues preventing films from the African continent from getting recognition. In the same report, Nigerian journalist Steve Ayorinde laid the blame on Nollywood productions not meeting the technical requirements of a cinema film. He acknowledged, though, that streaming platforms like Netflix are causing positive change by requiring cinematic standards for the films they put up on their platform.

In recent times, several Nigerian films have stood out. Kunle Afolayan’s October 1, Izu Ojukwu’s ’76, Ramsey Nouah’s Living in Bondage: Breaking Free and Damilola Orimogunje’s For Maria Ebun Pataki are some of those films. But clearly, more efficiency is needed if Nigerian films are to have a breakthrough on the global stage.

While the 2023 Oscars Awards will go on without Nigeria, some African countries have submitted their entries for consideration.


Under The Fig Trees is the fiction feature debut of French-Tunisian director and producer Erige Sehiri. It is a story of young and old people working in an orchard in rural Tunisia during the summer fig harvest. While they work, they connect – and disconnect – with one another as it concerns love and life.



Moroccan filmmaker Maryam Touzani’s The Blue Caftan is about a woman and her closeted homosexual husband who run a caftan store in the Moroccan city of Salé and hires a young man as an apprentice. The Blue Caftan is Touzani’s second entry to the Oscars following 2019’s Adam.



French film director Rachid Bouchareb’s Our Brothers revives the memory of Malik Oussekine and Abdel Benyahia who were killed by the police in December 1986 in Paris. Bouchareb’s film gives a fictional account of the event while examining the lives of North African immigrants in France.


Adapted from Adam Shafi’s Swahili novel, Tug of War is Tanzanian filmmaker Amil Shivji’s take on love and resistance. Set in 1950s Zanzibar, the film is centred on a young revolutionary and a runaway bride, battling their desires amid British rule and local tensions. Tug of War is Tanzania’s first Oscars entry in 21 years.



In the animated film TeraStorm, a group of superheroes unites to fight against an ancient wizard threatening to destroy the earth. It’s Kenyan 3D artist Andrew Kaggia’s feature debut and he serves as writer and executive producer.



Tembele is Uganda’s first-ever film submission for the Oscars. Directed by Ugandan filmmaker Morris Mugisha, the film is about a garbage man in Kampala who experiences a mental breakdown after the death of his son.

Outside the African continent, the countries that have made submissions include India, France, Canada, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Iran, Brazil, Palestine, Indonesia and Jordan. The 95th Academy Awards is scheduled to take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California on March 12, 2023.

Featured Image Credits/NATIVE