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Columbia's Luminal Theater's screening shows push for racial justice in 'Unapologetic'

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"Unapologetic" screens this week at the Spotlight Cinemas Capital 8. Provided

The Luminal Theater is screening the criminal-justice reform documentary “Unapologetic,” the latest showing from the Black-focused cinema project based primarily in Columbia tonight.

Based in Chicago, “Unapologetic” follows organizers Janaé Bonsu, a Columbia native, and Bella Nahhs as they seek justice for two young Black people, Rekia Boyd and Laquan McDonald, who were killed by Chicago police.

This free, one-time screening is on Sept. 23 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Spotlight Cinemas Capital 8 in Columbia. The showing will be followed by a question-and-answer panel with Bonsu.

She will be joined by two members from the local organization One Common Cause Community Control Initiative.

“Their work really focuses in Chicago — the police murders around Laquan McDonald and Rekia Boyd specifically — but more people who are abused by cops and incarceration,” Luminal Theater executive director Curtis Caesar John said. “These two young women in particular, interestingly enough, also have families, as many of us do, who are overtaken or gutted by incarceration — false incarceration, mostly — or extremely harsh incarceration for the crimes that were committed.”

The film captures the way Black women are the bedrock for social change in America, according to John.

“Ashley O’Shay is one of those filmmakers that me and my team have been following for a number of years. When I finally got to preview the film early this year, I, we, the team were just taken aback by how powerful it is,” John said. “She was ahead of most people. Black women have been doing a lot of the leading for the past five years or so – the movement for Black lives, Black Lives Matter and all these activist movements.”

The Luminal Theater is a non-profit, nomadic cinema that began as a pop-up space in New York in 2015. Today, the cinema travels to different places, though primarily stationed in Columbia for the foreseeable future at the Spotlight Cinemas Capital 8 in Northeast Columbia.

“​Unapologetic” marks Luminal’s latest showing of diverse cinema and media from the Black/African diaspora in Columbia. In 2020, the theater helped organize a drive-in movie series that highlighted shorts by Black filmmakers and, this year, hosted screenings from the Sundance Film Festival in Columbia.

“Our catchphrase is really, ‘We bring Black films to Black neighborhoods and to the people who need to see them,’” John said. “Meaning a little more specifically, there's a lot of times, unfortunately, barriers to entry to seeing a lot of Black independent films.”

It’s films like “Unapologetic” that John feels is important for the Luminal Theater to screen for the Columbia community to see.

“I feel unfortunately that there's people that just continue to turn a blind eye,” John explained. “My desire —my hope is that a film like “Unapologetic” can help open up people's eyes as to what's happening … The reason that Janae, Bella and the people in the film are fighting is for injustice against Black folks. I think we can all benefit from seeing a lot more of that – even those of us that do this fight.”


Sept. 23. 7p.m. to 9 p.m. Post-screening Q&A with Janaé Bonsu and One Common Cause Community Control Initiative. Free with RSVP. Spotlight Cinemas Capital 8. 201 Columbia Mall Blvd.

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