Peter Tonguette| Special to The Columbus Dispatch
Filmmakers Melissa Gira Grant and Ingrid Raphael knew there was a story behind the wave of killings of young people, most of them Black, by police officers in Columbus.
I would be at the protests, and the families would be telling their stories, but when you would read and try to find more information, the media outlets that were covering the stories would only be giving the stories from the perspective of the police reports, said Raphael, a 28-year-old artist then living in Columbus.
Then Raphael, now living in Philadelphia, was introduced to Grant, a 43-year-old journalist based in Brooklyn, New York, who had been traveling to Columbus to write about police violence in the city.
I had started covering the story of Donna Dalton, who was shot and killed by (former police officer) Andrew Mitchell and then some months later, he was charged with murder in her death, said Grant, a staff writer at The New Republic magazine.
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That story really stuck out, because, at that time, before Mitchell was indicted, no Columbus police officer for the entire tenure of former prosecutor Ron OBrien had been charged with murder, Grant said.
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The two colleagues joined forces to co-direct a new 20-minute documentary being shown at Mershon Auditorium on the campus of Ohio State University at 7 p.m. Oct. 22. They Wont Call It Murder examines the topic through the perspective of surviving female family members of victims of police shootings namely, Adrienne Hood, the mother of Henry Green; Bobbi McCalla, the older sister of Dalton; Malika King and Derrea King, the mother and grandmother of Tyre King; and Jamita Malone and Maryam Malone, the mother and younger sister of Julius Tate Jr.
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The screening to be followed by a discussion with guests Grant, Raphael, Hood, Derrea and Malika King, and Jamita Malone is part of the Unorthodocs documentary film festival presented by the Wexner Center for the Arts (where the other screenings will take place).
(The film) really spends time with especially the women in the families of victims of police shootings mothers, grandmothers, sisters and how they build communities of support and try to figure out how to get justice, said Chris Stults, Wexner Center associate curator of film/video.
The goal is to give voice to figures whose perspectives might be omitted from official accounts of their loved ones deaths.
We knew that we had the ability, because of the relationships and the trust that we had, to tell the story in a really different way and in a way that gave these women and their families the power back, Grant said.
The film began production in December 2019 and wrapped toward the end of February 2020, but Grant and Raphael revisited the project following the death of George Floydin May 2020 while in police custody in Minneapolis.
We had yet again another unfortunate event in American history where a Black man was killed by police and we had these national uprisings, said Raphael, who decided that Columbus protests needed to be documented, too.
They Wont Call It Murder is the centerpiece of the fifth installment of Unorthodocs, which was originally intended to have a larger scope.
The pandemic curtailed those comeback plans just a bit: Instead of taking place over as many as five days, as in years past, the in-person component of this years festival is set for two days, Oct. 22 and 23.
But, as if by design, this leaner version of the festival has a focus it might not have otherwise had.
I didnt even realize this until after we finished the lineup, but at least in terms of the feature (documentaries), theyre all made by women and primarily women of color which wasnt intentional at all, but just seems like the most exciting work that we had planned to show, Stults said.
And, while last years Unorthodocs festival was entirely virtual, this years in-person screenings boast five programs that will make full use of the big screen; just one film, the documentary Prism, featuring contributions by three separate filmmakers, will be shown online this year (starting Oct. 24 and continuing through Oct. 30 on http://www.wexarts.org).
They are just overwhelming cinematic experiences that really needed to be seen on a screen, Stults said of the films selected to be screened in-person.
The festival opens at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 22 with Unorthodocs Shorts, a 75-minute program of short documentaries. Two filmmakers featured in the lineup Rasel Ahmed and Lydia Cornett will speak afterward.
After the screening of, and discussion related to, They Wont Call It Murder later that evening, the festival will resume on Oct. 23.
At 2 p.m. Oct. 23, Jessica Beshirs Faya Dayi will be screened. The documentary offers a look at the Ethiopian crop khat, which, when chewed, can lead to a feeling of euphoria.
Its the most lucrative crop in Ethiopia, Stults said. The film enters an appropriately meditative dream state. Its not one of those issue films, where you learn facts and figures like you would in a magazine article.
Also on Oct. 23, showing at 4:30 p.m. is Rosine Mbakams Delphines Prayers, which draws on the filmmakers interviews with a woman who had been a sex worker in Cameroon before relocating to Belgium; and at 7 p.m., Natalia Almadas Users, which utilizes sweeping cinematography to capture the role of technology in the natural world.
Despite being shorter than usual, the festival promises a thorough look at some of the most exciting voices in documentary filmmaking.
You can see a lot of the most striking documentaries all in one sitting, Stults said.
The Wexner Center for the Arts Unorthodocs documentary film festival will feature in-person screenings Oct. 22-23 at the arts center, 1871 N. High St.
They Wont Call It Murder will be shown at no charge at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 inMershon Auditorium. A discussion with the filmmakers and those featured in the documentary will follow.
Other in-person screenings cost $9, or $7 for Wexner Center members, $5 for students.
Visit http://www.wexarts.org for more information.
Masks are required.
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