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When I Rise


USA Director: Mat Hames


Producers: Alison Beck, James Moll, Michael Rosen, Ramona Kelly Cinematographer: Wilson Waggonner Editors: Mat Hames, Sandra Guardado


Cast: Barbara Smith Conrad, Harry Belafonte 2010/color/75 min.


MAT HAMES


Austin-based filmmaker Mat Hames has won multiple awards for his documen- taries, including regional Emmys for his PBS-produced State of Tomorrow and the Golden Sun Award from the Barcelona International Film Festival for Fighting Goliath (2008). In 2007, he was awarded the decoration of the Knight of the Order of the Crown for preserving the history of the Belgian resistance with his film Last Best Hope (2006).


Filmography Fighting Goliath (2008) Last Best Hope (2006)


One of the first African-American students enrolled at the University of Texas– Austin in the 1950s, Barbara Smith Conrad experienced her earliest brush with fame when she was removed from the lead in the opera Dido and Aeneas after the Texas state legislature threatened to withdraw financial support to the university if it allowed a black girl to play a romantic role opposite a white boy. The gifted mezzo-soprano weathered the civil-rights storm that followed with quiet grace. This documentary, produced by UT’s own Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, follows Conrad’s rise to international stardom on stages around the world, from the Vienna Opera House to the Met. (Originally named Barbara Smith, she added her father’s first name to her own when she moved to New York after graduation and learned there was another Barbara Smith registered with Actor’s Equity.)


Filmmaker Mat Hames opens Conrad’s story with scenes of the beautiful Piney Woods of east Texas, where she was raised in a strong and nurturing musical family. Her mother took her to concerts whenever possible, and a performance by Marion Anderson inspired the little girl. She grew up singing in the hub of the small community, the Center Point Church—and the rest was literally history.


News clips and interviews with university officials, fellow students, her business manager and her good friend and supporter Harry Belafonte—along with Conrad’s own insightful commentary—carry this chronicle of her dignified rise to fame and triumph over racial bigotry. Indeed, she has since been named a distinguished alumna of her alma mater, has a scholarship endowed in her name—and has even received an award from the Texas state legislature.


—JULIET SHERWOOD


Preceding the Tuesday, November 9 screening, Sankofa, an Ensemble of the Spirituals Project Choir, will rock the audience with a couple of African-American spirituals.


In cooperation with Three Sistahs


152


DOCUMENTARY


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