BlackStar Film Festival – ‘Unapologetic’ Review

How many black lives must be lost for the world to listen? How long do they have to fight for the world to understand that black lives matter? The USA has been affected by the unlawful killing of people of colour by the police for many decades, with the last 10 years being the worst. Before the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, and Stephon Clark, just to name a few, there was Rekia Boyd. The 22-year-old woman was an innocent bystander in Chicago, who was shot dead in 2012 by Dante Servin, an off-duty police officer. With her death came protests from black millennial organisers who challenged the Chicago Police Department about their violence, corruption and racial profiling of African-Americans in the city. Unapologetic, directed by Ashley O’Shay, highlights those issues in a heart-rending narrative that is told through the eyes of two queer activists, Bella BAHHS and Janae Bonsu. 

Photo © Unapologetic 

Bella, a self-described rap-tivist, and Janae, a PhD student, invite the audience into their lives by providing a profound look into the black community as well as the lives of the women within it. Bella and Janae are true front-liners when it comes to fighting against the criminalisation of black people. In addition, they show their own struggles with sexism, inequality and the lack of tolerance towards LGBTQ people in their own community. 

Bella, with her spoken word, expresses her frustration and passionately talks about social liberation for her people and the empowerment of black women. With her undying commitment and powerful persona, she truly makes a difference, and, at the same time, she educates those who are less aware of the issues that people of colour experience in the USA. Janae, while working towards her PhD in social work, is also trying her best to make changes within the academic environment. Both young women show the importance of Black Lives Matter and how much work is still left for society to change. Unapologetic also documents the story of Lori Lightfoot and her ‘journey’ to become the first African-American mayor of Chicago; her ambitious agenda of helping the city’s neighbourhoods and communities won her the position in 2019. 

Photo © Unapologetic 

Unapologetic is Ashley O’Shay’s feature debut, in which she gives a voice to those who are rarely given one, in addition, she also draws on an ardent and honest portrayal of the Black Lives Matter movement. With its truthful narrative, Janae and Bella demonstrate what it means to make an impact and improve the lives of others. Unapologetic is a must-watch production; the film is cleverly scripted which, in parts, is also moving. And, as complex as it might be, it inspires a debate on why the Black Lives Matter movement is vital in present times.

Rating:  4-stars

Photo © Unapologetic 

Written by Maggie Gogler

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