Chinonye Chukwu Reflects On Her Masterfully Haunting Drama 'Clemency' [Sundance Interview]
Time can mean everything and nothing at all depending on your circumstances. For incarcerated people —specifically those on Death row, and prison employees responsible for ending lives, time is all-consuming. In her masterfully haunting drama, Clemency —director Chinonye Chukwu examines the lives of Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard)— a prison warden, and Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge) — a man on death row. Though Bernadine has worked tirelessly to maintain an emotional masque —one that has allowed her to direct the execution of 12 incarcerated men —her facade is beginning to crack.
With his death warrant signed —Bernadine finds herself drawn to Anthony, a man grasping on to the very last fragments of his sanity as death hovers around him. Just after Clemency's premiere at Sundance Film Festival, and before it won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, Shadow and Act sat down with Chukwu to discuss the unnerving story, and why she was inspired to write it in the first place.
"I was really inspired to tell the story the morning after Troy Davis was executed," Chukwu remembered. "Troy Davis was executed in September 2011, and hundreds of thousands of people protested against his execution, including some retired wardens and directors of corrections. They all banded together and wrote a letter to the governor appealing for clemency, not just on the grounds of potential innocence, but also because of the emotional and psychological consequences they knew that killing Troy would have on the prison staff who were sanctioned to do so."
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