The Athena Film Festival Breakthrough Award is given to a feature length film — narrative or documentary — directed by a first or second time woman filmmaker that tells the story of a woman leader.
The winning film screens at the Athena Film Festival, and the director receives a $25,000 grant as part of the award.
Please note that in order for a film to be considered, the film cannot have a US theatrical distribution deal (including virtual cinema through a distributor) or a US streaming deal prior to February 1st, 2021.
2021 Athena Film Festival Breakthrough Award Winner
Ashley O’Shay, director Unapologetic
Ashley O’Shay is a DP and documentarian based in Chicago, IL, whose work focuses on illuminating marginalized voices. She has produced work for national brands, including Lifetime, Nike, KQED, and Dr. Martens. She filmed the final episode of Dr. Martens’ “Tough As You” series, starring the band Phony Ppl, accruing over 65K views on social and web. In 2019, she co-produced the Chicago episode of KQED’s award-winning series “If Cities Could Dance,” which became one of their most viewed episodes to date. Her work also appeared in the critically-acclaimed Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. Most recently, she premiered her debut feature, Unapologetic, a deep look into the Movement for Black Lives in Chicago, told through the experiences of two young, Black queer women. The film premiered at the 2020 BlackStar Film Festival, and was shortlisted for the International Documentary Association Awards.
Inaugural Athena Film Festival Breakthrough Award Winner- 2020
Unjoo Moon, director I Am Woman
Born in South Korea and raised in Australia, Unjoo Moon studied Arts/Law at the University of NSW before working at ABC TV as an on-air reporter. Her passion for storytelling led her to the Australian Film Television & Radio School (AFTRS) where she not only won the Kenneth Myer Producing award but where she also met her partner, Oscar-winning cinematographer Dion Beebe. Together they moved to Los Angeles where Unjoo attended the American Film Institute, graduating with a master of fine arts and the Franklin J. Schaffner Directing Award. Unjoo has directed and produced many award-winning short films, music videos, commercials, and documentaries which have screened internationally at film festivals and on network television. Her feature documentary The Zen of Bennett (described by the New York Times as a “tender, touching documentary portrait of the singer Tony Bennett”) was released theatrically and has streamed on both Netflix and Amazon. Unjoo’s PSA video on gun violence, “The Wrong Side of History” with spoken word artist In-Q has been viewed over 50 million times on social media and continues to keep the conversation going on gun reform. I Am Woman is Unjoo’s narrative feature directorial debut.