What exactly do you know about this trail-blazer?

Chinonye Chukwu is a Nigerian-American filmmaker who emerged the first black woman to win the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Drama for her second feature movie Clemency.

We did a little digging here and there and were able to discover a bunch of interesting facts about this award-winning woman that we can bet our Prada bags on, you didn’t know about before.

So let’s get right into it. Here are 10 things you did not know about Chinonye Chukwu.


1. She is Nigerian and the youngest of four. The filmmaker was born in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. She left Nigeria before she was a year old when her parents went to Oklahoma to finish their advanced studies. They eventually moved to Alaska when her father got a job at University of Alaska Fairbanks when she was six and she spent her entire childhood there.

2. She had wanted to be a filmmkaer since she was 13 years old after being inspired by Federica Fellini’s 8 ½. Today, she is a screenwriter, producer and director.

3. She studied at DePauw University where she changed her major seven times before finally settling on English even though her parents wanted her to be a lawyer.

Chinonye-Chukwu-17838_012.jpg 4

4. Chinonye’s first documentary was made in her third and fourth year (junior and senior year) and it was called Four Women: Being Black and Female on DePauw’s Campus. It was centered on the challenges and complexities of being a black woman on the conservative Indiana campus. She recalls it was not good at all, but it was enough to get her into film school.

5. She won the Princess Grace Foundation Grant of $25,000. Chinonye, after getting admitted into film school, made a film every year and doing so helped her create a body of work that qualified her to apply for the grant, which she won.

6. Her movie, Clemency, is not her first movie. She wrote, produced and directed Alaskaland, her first feature movie in 2012, before writing a second one, Clemency in 2018. Leading up to that, she made a number of short films such as Dust, A Long Walk, Bottom, The Dance Lesson, and Igbo Kwenu!. 

7. Clemency is not the first movie for which she’ll be getting a prestigious award and recognition for. Chinonye’s short movie, The Last Dance , won her the Princess Grace Award and was premiered at the Ritz Theater of Philadelphia. It was later acquired by MindTV for regional network distribution.

Her other work, Igbo Kwenu!, was a recipient of the PIFVA Subsidy Grant from the independent film community, and both the Best Motion Picture Award and Best Screenplay Award at the 2009 Diamond Screen Festival. 

8. Besides making films, Chinonye teaches. She currently teaches at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

READ ALSO – Slamdunk! First Black Woman Wins Sundance Biggest Prize For Her Movie, Clemency

9. She has been rejected countless times. The filmmaker admits to being rejected but instead of letting it weigh her down, used it to become a better educator, a better worker and a better person.

2019 Sundance Film Festival - Awards Night Ceremony

10. She is a trail blazer. Chinonye is the first black woman to win one of Sundance’s biggest prize, the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic for her movie, Clemency. 

So there you have it. How many of these did you know?




Chinonye Chukwu: Filmmaker, Film Dayton https://filmdayton.com/3356-2/

Chinonye Chukwu, African Filmny https://www.africanfilmny.org/2013/chinonye-chukwu/

Clemency: Artist Bio, Sundance Institute https://www.sundance.org/projects/clemency