Collective seeks to build community around films that explore radical voices, views

No Evil Eye is a film project, but it's largely about offering programming its organizers want to see and, through that programming, building a community of which they want to be a part.

Rooney Elmi and Ingrid Raphael's project makes its debut on Thursday, May 9, at the Wexner Center for the Arts during this year's Flyover Fest. Part of the festival's film programming, the microcinema's launch is a homecoming of sorts for Raphael, who is a past intern at the Wex. (Elmi is also an occasional contributor to the Wex blog.)

The duo shared a passion for activism and film and, it turns out, a desire to start the kind of project they envisioned No Evil Eye becoming, unbeknownst to each other, as far back as several years ago.

“We each had similar ideas drafted up years back,” Raphael said. “I wasn't surprised that [Elmi] was down for starting up a local-based, recurring film and community gathering that centered on radical and underground voices.”

“Ingrid and I have known each other for years as student activists who've bonded over our shared politics and love for the moving image. I'm always thinking about ways to bridge the gap between the online and physical space, and the concept of starting a microcinema was perfect,” Elmi said.

Both Elmi and Raphael are working filmmakers and zine publishers (SVLLY(wood) for Elmi; The Grid Zine for Raphael). The desire to start No Evil Eye was to build a community around film that would serve enthusiasts, be they producers or consumers. No Evil Eye programs will offer curated underground and/or radical voices to a community that is seeking them.

“We're down for anything — that's where the basement quality of No Evil Eye kicks in,” Elmi said.

“We're very big on incorporating underground, up-and-coming filmmakers and coupling them with emerging established filmmakers,” Raphael said, “with a focus on themes that reflect our times and social strata.”

The Flyover event at the Wexner Center will begin with a zine fair involving Columbus area creatives and political organizations “to start that community-building atmosphere that is so integral to our project,” Elmi said. An hour-long screening of shorts and documentaries in the Film/Video auditorium will follow, focusing on “diasporic reckoning as a mirror to Columbus' growing immigrant population,” Elmi said. A talk back will follow with Mitch E. Vicieux, a Visual Arts MFA candidate at Ohio State University.

In addition to Vicieux's “Generica America,” the Flyover screening will include Sahal Hassan's “Landmark,” Weeda Zia's “Heart in my Head in my Heart” and Rosine Mbakam's “You will be my Ally,” among other films.

“Ultimately, we want folks to have a good time and engage with the zine artists, community organizations and films in a critical and transformative way. We want it to be organic and have the audience react and critique. How do these themes relate to what's happening in Columbus? We're all about the local is global,” Raphael said, echoing one of No Evil Eye's missional statements.

Neither would rule out the possibility that No Evil Eye could take on a filmmaking role at some point, but Elmi and Raphael emphasized that the project is focused on a broader representation of voices and the hope that a community can be built around experiencing film in a shared space and having a conversation in response.

“Making sure we build a loyal community and audience through workshops and screenings is our sole focus at the moment,” Elmi said.

“I saw an opening for an independent space in Columbus solely made for moving-image work and artists, critics and audience to swap resources, knowledge and share their work or film recommendations,” Raphael said. “Though this sort of exchange exists in Columbus, it's usually found in isolated groups within the walls of institutions, thus making it inaccessible for unaffiliated folks. Part of No Evil Eye is to make cinephilic spaces accessible.”