The Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee (NOSC) has picked ‘The Milkmaid’ as the country’s submission to the International Feature Film category of the 2021 Oscars.
The film was selected by the 12-member NOSC, having followed and met the prescribed procedures by the Academy, subject to further determination by the IFF Executive Committee.
The NOSC is headed by a filmmaker and education administrator, Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi.
Written, produced and directed by Desmond Ovbiagele, ‘The Milkmaid’ is a Hausa language-based thriller on insurgency, especially as it affects women and children in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Inspired by the image on Nigeria’s N10 note, the film which is currently showing in cinemas nationwide, tells the story of a Fulani milkmaid who confronts extremists in a rural African community. It follows her journey and quest to locate her missing sister, and how efforts to recapture her disrupted past prove complicated.
Anyaene-Abonyi noted that there is a significant improvement in the quality of films received this year.
“The Academy’s approved parameters had to be diligently followed to select the country’s entry without prejudice. And I must say that the Nigerian film industry is awakened to the internationally acceptable requirements for film production, though there would always be room for improvement in order to increase our competitive outlook every year,” she said.
Announcing the selection, the NOSC for the IFF category of the Academy Awards said it received several entries while six sailed through the first vetting exercise.
The final six films are ‘Sanitation Day”, ‘Voiceless’, ‘Oloture’, ‘Ibi’ (The Birth), ‘The Milkmaid’ and ‘Eyimofe’.
The last stage of three films, it said, had ‘The Milkmaid’, scoring overwhelming majority votes.
The film was selected by the 12-member NOSC, having followed the prescribed procedures by the Academy, subject to further determination by the IFF Executive Committee.
‘The Milkmaid’ was voted by seven of nine voting-NOSC members. NOSC stated that three members were considered ineligible, due to their affiliation with some of the films in competition, in line with the Academy’s rules.
It described the process of selection as intense, democratic, and a worthy development for the Nigerian film industry.
Shot on location in Taraba State, North-East Nigeria, ‘The Milkmaid’ stars popular northern Nigerian actress, Maryam Booth, alongside Ibrahim Jammal, Anthonieta Kalunta, and Gambo Usman Kona among others.
The film owes its other credits to New Jersey-based surgeon, Oluseun Sowemimo as Executive Producer, Yinka Edward for Cinematography, Chuka Ejorh for Editing, Pat Nebo for Production Design, and Hakeem Onilogbo for Special Effects.
Screened in cinemas in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe, ‘The Milkmaid’ is an authentic and riveting Nigerian story with global relevance. It commands beautiful acting, ace directing, and great cinematography. The film is Ovbiagele’s sophomore, having written, produced and directed the award-winning ‘Render to Caesar’ in 2014.
The 12-man NOSC is headed by, filmmaker and education administrator, Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi.
Other members include filmmaker and Chairman of Audio-Visual Rights Society (AVRS) of Nigeria, Mahmood Ali-Balogun; Filmmaker/Talent Manager, Mildred Okwo; Filmmaker/Author, Charles Novia; veteran actress turned filmmaker, Ego Boyo; notable Director and Cinematographer, Adetokunbo ‘DJ Tee’ Odubawo; Theatre Practitioner and Head of Production for M-NET West Africa, Yibo Koko.
Others are the Group Executive Director of Filmhouse Cinemas and Managing Director of FilmOne Entertainment, Moses Babatope; CEO of Legend Box Office, Bruce Ayonote; Filmmaker and Founder, In-Short Film Festival, Victor Okhai; notable actress and producer, Omoli Oboli and Journalist/Film Critic, Shaibu Husseini.
Last year, Nigeria’s official submission, “Lionheart”, was disqualified for not meeting the non-English dialogue criteria.
This led to the controversy on whether or not Nigerian pidgin should not be considered a local language.
Although the Oscars has since reviewed the rule, giving approval for dialogues in pidgin, ‘The Milkmaid’ shot with Hausa, Fulfulde and Arabic dialogues appears to have been made with the original Academy rules in mind and had not left anything to chance.
The 93rd edition of the Academy Awards is scheduled to hold on April 25, 2021.