Ashley O'Shay Receives Inaugural CIFF Groundbreaker Award

Following her Athena Breakthrough Award, Unapologetic director, producer, and cinematographer Ashley O'Shay has been named as the recipient of the Groundbreaker Award. The Groundbreaker Award, which is sponsored by CoverMyMeds, is presented to a pioneering filmmaker in their field whose work has proven to lift up marginalized voices. This recognition comes with a $5,000 cash award to help support the filmmaker’s future work. 

With an impressive roster of projects in her portfolio, Ashley has gained notoriety from her work with national brands and award-winning television series, as well as critically-acclaimed docuseries. After crafting several short films, UNAPOLOGETIC is Ashley’s first feature film. Previously a fellow with Firelight Media, the Bay Area Video Coalition, Film Independent, Kartemquin’s Diverse Voices in Docs, Hedgebrook, Cucalorus Film Festival, and UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program.

As part of the program, Ashley will connect virtually with organizations whose missions support communities of color. The Groundbreaker Award will be presented to Ashley during the live, interactive broadcast of CIFF45 Streams’ Happy Hour show on Tuesday, April 13th at 8:00 PM ET on the CIFF YouTube page

Born from CIFF44’s Focus 2020: Racial Equity Program, the Groundbreaker Program will not only educate the CIFF45 audience and community about structural racism, but also it will elevate and support filmmakers of color. The program, which is sponsored by Case Western Reserve University, will offer a number of feature and short films, with a pre-recorded CIFF45 Streams Roundtable panel discussion. CIFF 45 Streams Filmmaker Conversations and Roundtables are presented by PNC.

Unapologetic will enjoy its UK Premiere on March 18th as part of the London Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Tickets available now.


CIFF45 Streams will be held entirely online April 7-20, 2021 at The Festival will consist of hundreds of films, filmmaker conversations and Q&As, audience voting, filmmaker awards, podcast episodes, and merchandise, as well as audience engagement activities and events. The Festival lineup will be released on on Friday, March 19 th at 11:00 AM ET. Tickets – including special event screenings – will go on sale to CIFF Members on Monday, March 22nd at 11:00 AM ET and to the public on Friday, March 26 th at 11:00 AM ET. For more information, including membership opportunities, please visit


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.