Nigerian filmmaker becomes first black woman to win Sundance Award

Chinonye Chukwu, a Nigerian-American filmmaker, has become the first black woman to win an award at the Sundance Film Festival.

Chinoye won the Grand Jury Prize for her film submission titled, “Clemency”. This prize is the festival’s highest honors according to Indiewire and it is voted by individual juries.

According to IMDB, the premise of the film reads, “Years of carrying out death row executions have taken a toll on prison warden Bernadine Williams. As she prepares to execute another inmate, Bernadine must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill.”
The lead actor in the film is Alfre Woodard, who has starred in TV shows such as Luke Cage and movies such as Captain America: Civil War.


The film has received general praise from U.S movie critics which proved it was a stellar production. With a strong cast and great production team, the movie speaks to some strong concepts in the society that are often overlooked.

According to an Indie Wire article, Chukwu did lots in preparation for the movie. Chinoye talked about the research she did for Clemency saying, “I did a deep, deep four year dive into the research and advocacy required to tell this story. I started in 2013, where I just did secondary research, where I interviewed a lot of those retired wardens and directors of corrections and death row lawyers and men who were exonerated from death row. I visited prisons and read a lot of books and articles. And that was just scratching the surface.”


Chinoye joins the likes of Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler to have won the award. The Nigerian-American filmmaker has been in her trade since 2009 directing short films. At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, over 56% of the directors were women.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *