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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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