Ashley O'Shay Receives Athena Breakthrough Award

Unapologetic director Ashley O'Shay has been named as the recipient of the Athena Breakthrough Award. The Netflix-sponsored award is given to a feature length film — narrative or documentary — directed by a first or second-time woman filmmaker that did not have U.S. distribution as of February 1, 2021.

“I am absolutely honored to be chosen as this year’s Athena Film Festival’s Breakthrough Award recipient,” said O’Shay. “As a festival steeped in the tradition of uplifting women’s leadership, I can think of no better home than Athena for my debut feature, ‘Unapologetic.’ You’ve created a moment of inspiration for a young Black girl from Indianapolis, who never knew her voice could have an impact such as this.”

The Athena Film Festival (AFF) announced its 2021 awardees earlier this week. Dedicated to highlighting films showcasing women’s leadership, the fest is running digitally this year from March 1 and runs through March 31.

“Creating a more inclusive entertainment industry starts with uplifting new voices and perspectives. The Athena Film Festival has always been committed to energizing and diversifying the industry by championing projects with women leaders from women filmmakers,” said Melissa Silverstein, AFF Co-Founder and Artistic Director, and Founder and Publisher of Women and Hollywood. “We are thrilled to be able to recognize Jane, Cherien, and Ashley for their dynamic works. They have each created incredibly unique and powerful projects that push the boundaries when it comes to discussion of race and social justice in our world. We look forward to seeing what’s next for these women and how their work will elevate our industry and empower future filmmakers and storytellers.”

All-access passes for AFF are sold out, but tickets are still available


Ashley O’Shay is a Chicago-based documentarian who has produced work for a number of national brands including Lifetime, Ford Motor Company, Boost Mobile, KQED, and Dr. Martens. Recently, O’Shay’s work appeared in the critically-acclaimed Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.” “Unapologetic” marks O’Shay’s first foray into the feature world. The film follows Janaé and Bella, two young abolitionist organizers, 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.