Nigerian filmmaker Chinonye Chukwu makes history winning grand prize at Sundance for prison movie ‘Clemency’

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Nigerian filmmaker Chinonye Chukwu is taking home the festival’s Grand Jury Prize for her U.S. Dramatic entry. She wrote and directed Clemency, a critically acclaimed drama starring Alfre Woodard as a prison warden overwhelmed by the emotional demands of death row.

Chukwu becomes the second Black woman to earn high recognition at Sundance. Ava DuVeray became the first Black woman to win a directing award at the festival in 2012 for her feature, Middle of Nowhere, Indiewire reports..

Clemency details the experiences of a prison warden who is pushed to the edge after a botched execution and must deal with the challenge of having to execute another inmate. Along with Woodard, the film also stars Wendell Pierce.

Chukwu reacted to the award on Instagram, posting, “I am so thankful and can’t wait to share this film with the world.”

DuVernay, always supportive of others in the industry, tweeted congratulations to her fellow filmmaker.

“Congrats to @ChinonyeC and the cast and crew of her film,” DuVernay posted on Twitter. “And all the casts and crews of every film at Sundance this year. Beautiful fest lineup with many gems.”

She joins Desiree Akhavan, Ryan Coogler, Debra Granik, Damien Chazelle in winning the Grand Jury Prize for their U.S. Dramatic entries.

Clemency is still pursuing United States distribution, Essence reports.

In the meantime, Chukwu is working toward her next project, a film adaptation of A Taste of Power, the memoir by Black Panther Elaine Brown, according to Essence.

This year’s other Grand Jury Prize winners include Nanfu Wang’s “One Child Nation” (U.S. Documentary), Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir” (World Dramatic), and Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov’s “Honeyland” (World Documentary).