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Unapologetic 2020

Highly Recommended

Distributed by PBS
Produced by Morgan Elise Johnson, Ashley O'Shay, and Rubin Daniel
Directed by Ashley O'Shay
Streaming, 86 mins

Activism; Black; Policing

Date Entered: 05/10/2022

Reviewed by Timothy W. Kneeland, History and Political Science Department, Nazareth College of Rochester, Rochester, NY

Filmed in 2015, this incisive documentary shows us the struggle of two, black female activists as they seek justice in Chicago for the murder of Rekia Boyd by an off-duty police officer Dante Servin. The film examines not just the work of JanaƩ Bonsu and Ambrell "Bella" Gambrell, but their lives as well. Bonsu has moved to Chicago to pursue her PhD and to make the city more woke to the plight of its black citizens; Gambrell is a charismatic Raptivist whose family has deep roots in the city and a history with the policing system that is structurally racist. Their quest seems quixotic, but they persevere and in their own way vindicated.

The film is engrossing, shot with a hand-held camera, which we glimpse in a bathroom scene, and scored with an impressive array of urban contemporary music. The film takes us through Chicago and gives us a visual poem of life in what some have called the capital of Black America .

The film is distressing in its exposure of structural racism but uplifting because of the promising future that we see in the lives of the Janae and Bella and in their representation of fourth wave feminism. Strongly recommended for college students.

2020 image+nation, Montreal LGBTQ Film Festival, WINNER: Jury Prize; 2021 Athena Film Festival, WINNER: Breakthrough Award; 2021 Cleveland International Film Festival, WINNER: Groundbreaker Award

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.