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POV: Unapologetic

Janae takes command at a downtown rally
Courtesy of Christine Irvine
"If we don't get it, shut it down!" Janae takes command at a downtown rally. An inside look into the ongoing movement work that transformed Chicago, from the police murder of Rekia Boyd in 2012 to the election of mayor Lori Lightfoot in 2019, this film spotlights the social justice work being done by young activists in communities across the country by the broader Movement for Black Lives.

Premieres Monday, Dec. 27, 2021 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV + Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 at 9 a.m. on KPBS 2 / On Demand

Meet Janaé Bonsu, 24, and Bella BAHHS, 22, two fierce Black, queer abolitionists whose upbringing and experiences shape their activism and views on Black liberation in “Unapologetic,” directed by Ashley O’Shay and produced by Morgan Elise Johnson. Through their lens, the documentary provides an inside look into the ongoing movement work that transformed Chicago, from the police murder of Rekia Boyd in 2012 to the election of Mayor Lori Lightfoot in 2019. The film also spotlights the social justice work being done by young activists in communities across the country by the broader Movement for Black Lives.

POV Trailer | Unapologetic

In “Unapologetic,” Chicago based, first-time feature film director O’Shay captures a tense and polarizing moment in Chicago’s fight for the livelihood of its Black residents. The film follows organizers Janaé and Bella, as they work within the Movement for Black Lives to seek justice for Rekia Boyd and Laquan McDonald, two young Black people killed by Chicago police.

Comrades get in formation to shut down a Chicago highway.
Courtesy of Ashley O'Shay
Comrades get in formation to shut down a Chicago highway.

They aim to elevate a progressive platform for criminal justice to a police board led by Lori Lightfoot, the former President of the Chicago Police Board and Chair of the Police Accountability Task Force, and a complicit city administration, while also elevating leadership by women and femmes.

In the process of filming,” O’Shay realizes that organizers like Janaé and Bella reflect her own identity - and that there isn't enough storytelling that centers Black women much less covers Black queer women at the forefront of organizing movements.

Janae and her mom
Courtesy of Ashley O'Shay
Janae and her mom. An inside look into the ongoing movement work that transformed Chicago, from the police murder of Rekia Boyd in 2012 to the election of mayor Lori Lightfoot in 2019, this film spotlights the social justice work being done by young activists in communities across the country by the broader Movement for Black Lives.

Filmmaker Quotes:

Director-Producer, Ashley O’Shay said, “After a historical summer of Black uprising last year, we are elated to share this story with a public TV audience. What is so captivating to witness is the tapestry of this Black queer feminist movement that lies at the helm of fighting for all Black rights. This Chicago story resonates with communities throughout the world, as more and more citizens organize for Black liberation. We must continue to uplift Black feminist leaders like Janaé and Bella, and we look forward to engaging with organizations and partners through our partnership with POV.”

“While the world witnesses this newly-infused Civil Rights Movement, I’ll argue that the blueprint can be mapped to Chicago,” said producer Morgan Elise Johnson. “This city represents a microcosm of what resistance looks like. And, the crusade is led by young, Black abolitionist voices who are demanding justice for all.”

“In 'Unapologetic' we get a bold, uncompromising look into the vanguard of the activist movements that are sure to define the ongoing struggles for justice in this country. In Ashley and Morgan we get two of the most exciting young filmmakers who are sure to make waves in the industry for decades to come. And in the stories of Bella and Janaé we get to see the dynamism and power of Black feminist voices and the hope and struggles that inform their work” said American Documentary | POV executive director Erika Dilday.

Following the conclusion of “Unapologetic,” the short film “Le Frère” will make its POV broadcast debut. Directed by Jérémie Battaglia, “Le Frère” tells the story of a French-Moroccan family tending to their disabled son. Living with an illness that is causing him to lose the use of his body, Kaïs is awoken every morning by a different member of his family. Though paralyzed, he dreams he is the hero of his favorite manga, along with his brothers: Fehd, the bodybuilder and Zaïd, the ninja.

With "Unapologetic" and "Le Frère" we take two vastly different looks at the strength of family, both the ones you are born with and the ones you make. "Unapologetic" shows us young Black queer women as the powerful force they are and the mobilizing force that is making a difference in their Chicago community. "Le Frere" brings us into the world of a young man whose family supports him physically and emotionally and who dreams beyond the limits of his body. We are honored to bring them to the POV audience.

"Unapologetic" made its world premiere August 2020 at the BlackStar Film Festival. It also screened at Frameline, New Orleans Film Festival, and DOC NYC, and was shortlisted by the International Documentary Association for Best Documentary Feature in 2020.

Bella and her auntie hit a Chicago step at the Black Soul Nation picnic.
Courtesy of Ashley O'Shay
Bella and her auntie hit a Chicago step at the Black Soul Nation picnic.

Watch On Your Schedule:

“Unapologetic” makes its national premiere as part of POV’s 34th season on Monday, December 27. Available on demand for free at pov.org. until Feb. 27, 2022.

“Unapologetic” and “Le Frère” will be available on demand concurrently with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO.

Join The Conversation:

Engage with the issues. POV believes in the power of film to engage communities in dialogue around the most pressing social issues of our time. Use one of the film's accompanying resources to learn about the issues and get involved. Visit the POV Community Network to browse films available for screenings.

POV is on Facebook, and you can follow @povdocs on Twitter. #UnapologeticFilmPBS

Credits:

Produced by Morgan Elise Johnson. Directed by Ashley O’Shay. Produced in collaboration with Kartemquin Films.