Chinonye Chukwu Becomes the First Black Woman to Win a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance

Nigerian-American director of Clemency opened up a new chapter at Sundance, one of the biggest film festivals in the world as the first black woman to win the the festival’s biggest prize, the Grand Jury Prize for her U.S. Dramatic entry. The Nigerian-born, Alaska-raised screenwriter, producer, director and activist  wrote and directed the death row drama, which stars Alfre Woodard as a prison warden struggling with the emotional demands of her job.

“I did a deep, deep, 4 year dive into the research and advocacy required to tell this story…and that was just scratching the surface,” Chukwu says in an interview with Democracy Now.

‘She joins Desiree Akhavan, Ryan Coogler, Debra Granik, Damien Chazelle, and many more big names as winning the Grand Jury Prize for their U.S. Dramatic entries. Chukwu previously directed the 2012 drama “alaskaLand,” and has been directing short films since 2009. “Clemency” is still seeking U.S. distribution’, IndieWire reports.

Her next project has her directing, an adaptation of former Black Panther only female leader Elaine Brown’s memoir, ‘A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story.‘. Chukwu will work with Blacklist scriptwriter Alyssa Hill who will adapt the screenplay from the memoir.

Fun Facy: This year’s Sundance Festival, women directed 46 percent of the competition films, representing 56 films across four categories. In the U.S. Dramatic Feature category, female filmmakers were the majority: They comprised 56 percent of all directors, helming 16 films.


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