Festivals prestigious Rising Star Award is given to an actor or actress
whose noteworthy performances have put them on the path for elite and
lasting stardom in the industry.
Sophie Okonedo and BIFF Founder and Executive Director, Leslie Vanderpool. Photo © Dominic Duncombe Photography
Vanderpool, "Having Sophie Okonedo as the 2009 BIFF Rising Star honoree
could not be any more perfect. She is one of the most talented and
gracious actresses on screen today. We know the Bahamian community will
embrace her and help us celebrate her past, current and, most
certainly, future success. As anyone who has seen Sophie's collection
of feature film performances can attest, her star is most definitely
one on a meteoric rise."
Okonedo earned an Academy Award nomination in 2005 as Best Supporting
Actress for her role in Hotel Rwanda in which she played the wife of
the hotel owner who saved thousands of lives during the Rwanda genocide
of the 90s. She was also nominated for Screen Actors Guild (SAG,)
Critics Circle and NAACP Image Awards.More recently, she starred in the
feature film Skin, about a black girl born to white parents during
South Africas apartheid era. The film is based on the true story of
Sandra Laing and relates her parents battle to have her classified as
white and her subsequent battle to be re-classified as coloured in
order to be able to keep her children. Sophie is nominated as Best
Actress at the 2009 British Independent Film Awards. Also released in
2009 was the highly regarded The Secret Life of Bees in which Sophie
starred alongside Queen Latifa, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson.
2006 she starred in Scenes of a Sexual Nature, which followed seven
couples relationships one afternoon on Hampstead Heath, and in the
family feature Stormbreaker. In Martian Child she starred alongside
John Cusack and Joan Cusack. In 2002 she starred in the award-winning
British film Dirty Pretty Things with Audrey Tautou and Chiwetel
Ejiofor. Sophies portrayal of Juliette earned her a nomination for Best
Supporting Actress at the British Independent Film Awards in 2003.
Previous films include This Years Love (1999), The Jackal (1997), Go
Now (1995), and Young Soul Rebels (1991).
A montage of Okonedo's films were shown to the audience prior to the Q & A session. Photo © Dominic Duncombe Photography
Sophie Okonedo and Charley Walters at the Rising Star Tribute for Okonedo at the Balmoral Club during BIFF 2009. Photo © Dominic Duncombe Photography
television roles include her work with Paul Abbot and Tony Marchant:
she was seen in the 2003 Paul Abbot thriller/black comedy Alibi, and in
his BBC series Clocking Off (2000). Tony Marchants Never Never (2000)
for Channel 4 earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Royal
Television Society Awards. She is also well known for her roles in Born
with Two Mothers (2005), a hard-hitting drama which addressed the
powerful issue of IVF treatment, Whose Baby which was broadcast on ITV
in October 2004, and also in Sweet Revenge (2001), Dead Casual (2002)
and Deep Secrets (1996). In March 2006, she starred alongside Michael
Gambon and Colin Firth in Harold Pinters Celebration. In December of
the same year audiences saw Sophie in the gritty and emotional drama
Tsunami: The Aftermath. Her performance won her an Image Award for
Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-series or Dramatic
Special, and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a
Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television. She played the
ill-fated Nancy in the BBC adaptation of Oliver Twist, directed by Coky
Giedroyc and co-starring Timothy Spall, Tom Hardy and Edward Fox, which
was broadcast over Christmas 2007.
2008 Sophie made a big impact in the BBCs popular series Criminal
Justice as a perceptive solicitor in a case of domestic abuse and
graduating from RADA, Sophie spent two years with the Royal Shakespeare
Company and began her long running association with the Royal Court
Theatre (where she is now on the Board of Directors) and with whom she
appeared in more than ten plays. Her big break was when she joined
Trevor Nunn and Jon Cairds company at the National Theatre to play the
role of Cressida in Troilus and Cressida.
early 2010 Sophie stars in the lead role in the BBC television film Mrs
Mandela in which she plays the eponymous Winnie Mandela.