Chinonye Chukwu, a Nigerian-American filmmaker, clinched the Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance film festival; the first black woman to do so


Her entry, ‘Clemency’, which she wrote and directed, portrayed the story of a warden at a maximum security prison struggling with the emotional demands of her job.

Chukwu joins other prominent filmmakers such as Desiree Akhavan, Ryan Coogler, Debra Granik, and Damien Chazelle as winners of the Grand Jury Prize for their US dramatic entries.

Sundance Festival, which is the largest independent film festival in the US, is an annual event that holds in Salt Lake City, Utah, US.


In her acceptance speech, Chukwu thanked her producers, who had wanted a female director to tell the story.

According to her, the film was made “so we as a society can stop defining people by their worst possible acts, that we can end mass incarceration and dismantle the prison-industrial complex, and root our societies in true justice and mercy and freedom, which is all tied to our joy inside, which nobody can ever incarcerate and execute”.

In 2012, Ava DuVernay became the first black woman to win a directing award at the festival, for ‘Middle of Nowhere’.


Chukwu, a Rivers-born filmmaker, is also set to direct a movie adaptation of ‘A Taste of Power’, a memoir by Elaine Brown, former leader of the Black Panther Party.

Her other works include AlaskaLand, The Dance Lesson, and A Long Walk.

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