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Chinonye Chukwu at the world premiere of her film, "Clemency" at Sundance Film Festival 2019. Photo by Stephen Speckman courtesy of the Sundance Institute.

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

The Nigerian-American director leaves Sundance Film Festival 2019 making history.

Chinonye Chukwu is the Nigerian-American director who truly left a mark on this year's Sundance Film Festival. The raving reviews of her film Clemency are not the only valuables she'll be leaving the festival with, as she is taking home the Grand Jury Prize for the U.S. Dramatic competition, Indie Wire reports.

This win makes her the first black woman to snag the festival's biggest prize. She is now among U.S. Dramatic winners including Ryan Coogler, Desiree Akhavan, Debra Granik and more directors to take home this prize.

The Nigerian-born, Alaska-raised screenwriter, producer, director and activist both wrote and directed the drama that stars Alfre Woodard, who plays a prison warden grappling with how emotionally demanding her job is. Here's the brief synopsis from Sundance below:

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.

"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.

The filmmaker has also received more words of congratulations from the film world on social media, including Ava DuVernay and Tessa Thompson.




Chukwu is set to helm A Taste of Power next, a drama based on former Black Panther leader Elaine Brown's life. Read more about the project here.

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Photo by NurPhoto via Getty Images.

A Year After #EndSARS, Nigerian Youth Maintain That Nothing Has Changed

Despite the disbandment of the SARS units, young Nigerians are still being treated as criminals. We talk to several of them about their experiences since the #EndSARS protests.

On September 12th, Tobe, a 22-year-old student at the University of Nigeria's Enugu Campus was on his way to Shoprite to hang out with his friends when the tricycle he had boarded was stopped by policemen. At first, Tobe thought they were about to check the driver's documents, but he was wrong. "An officer told me to come down, he started searching me like I was a criminal and told me to pull down my trousers, I was so scared that my mind was racing in different ways, I wasn't wearing anything flashy nor did I have an iPhone or dreads — things they would use to describe me as a yahoo boy," he says.

They couldn't find anything on him and when he tried to defend himself, claiming he had rights, one of the police officers slapped him. "I fell to the ground sobbing but they dragged me by the waist and took me to their van where they collected everything including my phone and the 8,000 Naira I was with."

Luckily for Tobe, they let him go free after 2 hours. "They set me free because they caught another pack of boys who were in a Venza car, but they didn't give me my money completely, they gave me 2,000 Naira for my transport," he says.

It's no news that thousands of Nigerian youth have witnessed incidents like Tobe's — many more worse than his. It's this helpless and seemingly unsolvable situation which prompted the #EndSARS protests. Sparked after a viral video of a man who was shot just because he was driving an SUV and was mistaken as a yahoo boy, the #EndSARS protests saw millions of young Nigerians across several states of the country come out of their homes and march against a system has killed unfathomable numbers of people for invalid or plain stupid reasons. The protests started on October 6th, 2020 and came to a seize after a tragedy struck on October 20th of the same year.

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