Q&A: Rooney Elmi and Ingrid Raphael on No Evil Eye

May 06, 2019

Still from the short film America by Garrett Bradley, to be shown in the program No Evil Eye at the Wexner Center for the Arts

We're excited to collaborate on a new microcinema project launching this week at Flyover Fest, led by two talented young women with whom we've been fortunate enough to work. Read more about it below from founders Rooney Elmi, an occasional contributor to the Wex blog, and Ingrid Raphael, a past Wex intern.

What inspired you to start No Evil Eye?
Ingrid Raphael:
The idea came after visiting metropolitan cities and witnessing the abundance of radical film and community programming that was available to folks in public spaces. I witnessed a void in Columbus and saw an opening for an independent space solely made for moving-image work + artists, critics, and audience to swap resources, knowledge + share their work or film recommendations. Though this sort of exchange exists in Columbus, it’s usually found in isolated groups or within the walls of institutions; thus making it inaccessible for unaffiliated folks. 

I reached out to Rooney to see if she’d be interested in starting up a local-based recurring film + community gathering that centered radical and underground voices. I wasn’t surprised that she was down + that we had somehow warped time to find out that we each had similar ideas drafted up years back. 

Rooney Elmi: Ingrid and I have always talked about our love/hate relationship with the Columbus creative scene. On one side, it’s more alive than ever but who does it serve and where exactly are these creatives? When she rang me up day after New Years 2019 to pitch me this idea for a physical film space that connects with the community, I was all in. I’ve always thought about what that would look like and actually wrote a detailed breakdown three years ago that served as the blueprint for what became known as No Evil Eye. 


How did you settle on the name for this project?
We had a whole list of names that I can’t remember, that mirrored Rooney + I’s dynamic: forward-thinking, futuristic, hella diasporic, and in alignment with one another. We were talking about how cool 8BALL’s name was, a volunteer-run collective in NYC, and I looked at my keychain that has an 8 Ball and a Nazar amulet gifted to me by the homie while visiting Iran. The Nazar is an eye shaped amulet that protects against the evil eye: any malintentions, curses, or harm. I blurted out NO EVIL EYE and it was instantly a go!  

Symbolically, our name and logo informs our “anti-colonial gaze” stance. We stay away from curating films + workshops with a narrative about and/or for marginalized communities that, unfortunately, miss the mark because they’re carried out in a way that reinforces neo-colonial + imperial + capitalist perspectives of storytelling.

R:E: “Say MashAllah” is our unofficial tagline! We’re all about staying blessed and keeping evil at bay.

"Our inaugural film program explores the themes of class and diasporic reckoning whilst mixing established and emerging filmmakers in a lyrical mediation on race and migration that mirrors the growing immigrant community here in Columbus."
No Evil Eye cofounder Rooney Elmi
Image from the film Generica America by Mitch Vicieux, screening as part of the No Evil Eye shorts program at 2019 Flyover Fest

How do the selections reflect the project’s mission?
R:E: Our inaugural film program explores the themes of class and diasporic reckoning whilst mixing established and emerging filmmakers in a lyrical mediation on race and migration that mirrors the growing immigrant community here in Columbus. When Ingrid first sent out a call for submissions for regional filmmakers to submit their work, there were definitely some gems but nothing that really spoke to No Evil Eye’s initial motif until we came across Mitch E. Vicieux’s GENERICA AMERICA. It’s a blistering critique on Columbus’ growing gentrification epidemic and a radically different approach to tackling a hot button topic, speaks volumes on the punk artistic expression that goes virtually unnoticed here in the Midwest and that’s just half of our mission!

IR: Like Rooney said, we’re all about highlighting local talent to tell the story of local peoples. Our formula hinges on curating adventurous filmmakers from different backgrounds and career points to tell a singular, cohesive theme. For sequence one, we’ve programmed shorts from Mitch E. Vicieux, Sahal Hassan, Miko Revereza and Weeda Azim, as well as festival darlings: Miko Revereza, Rosine Mbakam, and Garrett Bradley.

Standouts include Cameroonian-Belgian filmmaker Rosine Mbakam’s You will be my Ally mirrors our diasporic theme through the voyage and interrogation of a migration story and its brutal implication. Mbakam’s addition to our program brings a breath of internationalism solidarity in diasporic experiences that ties intricately to our local and current reality of our migrant communities’ detainment and deportation. Garrett Bradley’s America made its debut at Sundance 2019 and was an instant favorite of the festival, it's a stunning cinephilic re-imagining of the black body in early cinema and an ode to historical rejuvenation of the Black American experience. We’re really humbled that six of the seven shorts will be having its Ohio premiere because of No Evil Eye!

Each director contributes to a complex set of narratives with eloquent, sublime imagery that we’ll continue to promote in future programming and hope to engage with Central Ohio audiences.


What’s next for No Evil Eye? How can people follow what you're up to?
We plan on having regular meetups and small screenings open to the community and audience to engage in a cinephilic space. Stay tuned  for our first meet up; we’ll announce dates via our instagram and the launch! In tandem, No Evil Eye will be facilitating youth and teen workshops, Look out for those in the future!

R:E: We’ll have a sign-up sheet at the kick off event and will follow up through our social media channels and newsletter. We’re also planning on taking No Evil Eye on the road and transforming into a irregular traveling series, our first stop is this July at Spectacle Theater in New York City. Stay tuned!  


Images: From Garrett Bradley's America and Mitch E. Vicieux's GENERICA AMERICA, courtesy of No Evil Eye