Walnut Hills celebrates its people and stories in a series of films to air Friday

CINCINNATI—If the audience at the first Hilltop Stories Neighborhood Film Festival wants to throw rotten tomatoes at the screen, they can save time by smushing tomatoes into their own faces. After all, the films premiering are largely by and about most of the people who will attend.

“We envisioned it somewhere between showing movies in the backyard and showing family vacation photos and everything in between,” said the festival’s co-founder, Ryan Mulligan. “It was about figuring out the stories people wanted told and making it happen.”

And making it happen fast. 

Annie Bolling, the owner of a new nonprofit gallery, the Gallery Project on Woodburn, reached out to Mulligan, telling him she was a fan of his own artwork and asked if he would get involved in her gallery’s debut. The gallery, at 2718 Woodburn Ave, hosts a satellite exhibition before the films begin showing across the street, at 9:15 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15, in the parking lot of St. Francis de Sales Church, at 1600 Madison Road.

Mulligan, who recently moved from Walnut Hills to Blue Ash, is a professor at the University of Cincinnati’s Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning whose own artistic practice has evolved more into a social and public practice. In 2013, he created a playground for the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center’s “UnMuseum” largely inspired by his young autistic son.

'Start by listening to people'

“I said to Annie, ‘If this is really about art and community, we’re going to have a neighborhood film festival about the neighborhood and show (the films) in the neighborhood,” said Mulligan, who had no previous practice with film or video.

“It’s art for social good,” he said. “You start from a place of listening to people: What can we do with as many people as possible to see other people’s perspectives? It’s a community dialogue, and a movie is nothing more than a giant megaphone to start that conversation.”

WCPO Insiders can read more about each film and what's next for Mulligan.

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