Why 'Clemency' Could Be The First Nigerian-Directed Film To Get Oscar Love

By the time Nigerian-American filmmaker, Chinonye Chukwu made history by becoming the first black woman to earn the Sundance Film Festival's highest honour, the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, her critically-acclaimed movie, Clemency was still seeking distribution.

(Photo: Chinonye Chukwu)

Clemency follows a prison warden (Alfre Woodard) who confronts her own psychological demons, as she develops a connection to the death row inmate she is scheduled to execute. Well, the potent drama has just been picked up for US distribution by Neon, and our Oscar senses are tingling.

Thanks to its history-making win and rare perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes, Clemency was already generating Oscar buzz, and now it’s been acquired by the same distributor as 2018 Oscar darling, I, Tonya. Could they do it again for this film? We think so.

Another thing Clemency has in common with previous Oscar darlings is its US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize win. In their respective years, Whiplash and Beasts of a Southern Wild won that prize, and then went on to nab several Oscar nominations, including 'Best Picture'.

The film’s best bet seems to be Alfre Woodard’s performance, and critics agree. Amy Nicholson said in her review for Variety:

"If Woodard is hoping for her overdue second Oscar nomination after 1983’s ‘Cross Creek,’ she’s got a decent shot with this excruciating character arc."

No official release date has been announced, but we guess it will be released right on time for awards season. Fingers crossed.

(Photo: Clemency/Sundance Institute)

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