Awards Profile 2019: Chinonye Chukwu’s ‘Clemency’ from NEON

Welcome to the 2019 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material.  Monday through Friday until mid-May, AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have a suggestion for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profile.”

FILM: “CLEMENCY”

DISTRIBUTOR: NEON
DIRECTOR: Chinonye Chukwu
PRODUCERS: Timur Bekbosunov, Kathryn Bostic, Julian Cautherly, Johnny Chang, Bronwyn Cornelius, Fiona Walsh Heinz, Emma Lee, Marina Stabile, Peter Wong, Alfre Woodard
WRITER: Chinonye Chukwu
CAST: Alfre Woodard, Aldis Hodge, Wendell Pierce, Richard Schiff, Michael O’Neill, Danielle Brooks, Vernee Watson, LaMonica Garrett
SYNOPSIS: 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. (IMDB)

SCHEDULED RELEASE: December 27th, 2019

POTENTIAL HIGHLIGHTS

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“Powerhouse” is a term that’s often used flippantly during awards season or critical reception, but in the case of Alfre Woodard‘s performance in “Clemency,” it is well-deserved. Distribution company NEON believes so too, scheduling “Clemency” for an awards-season-friendly release on December 27th. Woodard leads a thought-provoking film with gut-wrenching performances from Aldis Hodge and Danielle Brooks.

Following its debut at Sundance, “Clemency” took home the coveted Grand Jury Prize. The film’s reception was a warm one, a positive precursor for the future of the film. “Clemency’s” message is powerful, and its performances linger with the audience long after the film is over. This film is poised to earn a number of awards and nominations in the coming, which is great news for director Chinonye Chukwu. According to Indiewire, Woodard’s role is “brilliant,” and “deserves all the awards it can get.”

Alfre Woodard isn’t new to the awards conversation, having earned a supporting actress nomination for “Cross Creek” in 1984. She’s heavily decorated with Emmys from the Television Academy, but will she earn another Golden Globe nomination or even an Oscar?

POTENTIAL CHALLENGES

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While “Clemency” is a breathtaking film, it’s subject matter may be a tough sell for many awards voters and audiences. The film sheds light on a deeply uncomfortable and frustrating issue in American society. “Clemency” fearlessly tackles racism, incarceration, and the United States justice system, while some films may pander to voters, “Clemency’s” goal isn’t as such. Although the film is uplifted by its stunning performances, its somber, horrifying circumstances will undoubtedly unnerve some audience members.

As shown in the past, awards voters tend to gravitate towards films with a more positive, less complicated message and/or commentary. Outside of this element, Chinonye Chukwu is still a new director on the scene, and awards voters tend to lean in favor of more established directors.

POTENTIAL AWARDS CATEGORIES IN PLAY

  • Motion Picture (Timur Bekbosunov, Kathryn Bostic, Julian Cautherly, Johnny Chang, Bronwyn Cornelius, Fiona Walsh Heinz, Emma Lee, Marina Stabile, Peter Wong, Alfre Woodard)
  • Director (Chinonye Chukwu)
  • Actress in a Leading Role (Alfre Woodard)
  • Actor in a Supporting Role (Aldis Hodge)
  • Actress in a Supporting Role (Danielle Brooks)
  • Original Screenplay (Chinonye Chukwu)
  • Cinematography (Eric Branco)

POTENTIAL KEY NOTICES FROM OTHER GROUPS

  • Best Performance by a Cast Ensemble (SAG Awards): The performances from “Clemency” are incredible, and they are bound to be noticed with its more-established cast members. With the right push, it can lead the nominations.
  • Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama (Golden Globes): Woodard has received love in the past from the Golden Globes. She earned nominations for “Holiday Heart” in 2001 and “Passion Fish” in 1993. Woodard won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television for “Mrs. Evers’ Boys.” It wouldn’t be a surprise if she is nominated again by the HFPA.

ARE YOU EXCITED OR SKEPTICAL ABOUT CHINONYE CHUKWU’S “CLEMENCY?” PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW!

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