Chinonye Chukwu is the first Black woman to win this major award at the biggest film fest in the U.S.
The director took home the U.S. Grand Jury Prize in the Dramatic category for her film “Clemency” at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. She is the first Black woman to win the award.Throughout Sundance’s 35-year-old history, only nine other women have received the award. 46% of the films nominated at Sundance this year were directed by women.
Chukwu was born in Nigeria and grew up in Alaska. She graduated from DePauw University in 2007 and earned a master’s in film and media arts from Temple University in 2010. Her filmography as a writer, producer, and director currently includes seven films.
She wrote and directed “Clemency,” which focuses on death row executions and the emotional and mental damage they cause.
“I wrote this because I wanted audiences, I wanted us, I wanted myself to connect with the ecosystem of humanities connected to incarceration,” she stated at Sundance. “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.”
Chukwu even earned praise from Ava DuVernay, a fellow award-winning Black filmmaker, on Twitter.