Wednesday, November 11, 2020

DOC NYC Spotlight: Unapologetic

I’m excited to be covering DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, which presents its eleventh year, this time in a mostly online format, from November 11th-19th. 

Directed by Ashley O’Shay
Ticket Information

There has been an increased national awareness about the existence of system racism in America recently as police killings of unarmed, innocent Black people have made headlines and triggered protests. The misconception that some have, however, is that what is happening is a new phenomenon, and that going to the ballot box is the only way to create change. There is also a fear that, especially in light of other issues like the pandemic, the outrage that so many are feeling will soon disappear and the conversation will cease to happen in public spaces since people will have largely forgotten about it.

Janaé and Bella are two Black women in Chicago who are determined to keep talking about the massive injustices being committed regularly in their city. Janaé is a PHD candidate and Bella is a spoken-word artist, and their anger over police killings that have led to no recourse from their local government has spurred them into action. They have their sights set on particular individuals responsible for directing policy and charging the officers involved, and they are fully prepared to disrupt the calm others are feeling to make sure that they are heard and not ignored.

This film is all about political action, opening with a group reading out the names of victims of police violence to an unhappy crowd of people dining in a downtown restaurant. Their purpose is to ensure that people aren’t allowed to simply go about their lives without remembering that there are so many who do not have the luxury of not thinking about what happens in their midst. Their methods are met with considerable resistance, and they are not content to accept symbolic victories that don’t actually represent progress and serve only to appease those who no longer want to be focused on the conversation.

This is an undeniably timely film, one that is about Chicago but can easily have its message applied to the entire country. Janaé and Bella are both driven and passionate, and serve as inspirational subjects who channel their energy into a fight that they are determined never to stop fighting. It’s the kind of film that should be used as a rallying call to action, proving that hard work and commitment does lead somewhere, even if it doesn’t achieve everything that was set out as a goal. Like so many other documentaries, this film is an eye-opening conversation-starter.


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