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The University of Texas at Austin


Briscoe Center’s "When I Rise" Nominated for
2010 International Documentary Award

October 29, 2010

AUSTIN, TexasWhen I Rise, a Briscoe Center for American History documentary film about African-American mezzo-soprano Barbara Smith Conrad, has been nominated for a prestigious International Documentary Association (IDA) award in the Music Documentary category. Winners will be feted on December 3 at the Directors Guild Theater in Los Angeles in a ceremony hosted by award-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. The International Documentary Association is one of the leading organizations in the world of documentary film and filmmaking.

"This has been another banner year for documentary films," said IDA Executive Director Michael Lumpkin, "and that is reflected in our list of nominees. Entries to the Awards increased by nearly 20 percent this year, and the quality of the films vying for recognition is unprecedented."

The film is a production of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and was directed by Austin filmmaker Mat Hames, produced by James Moll and Michael Rosen, executive produced by Don Carleton, and made possible in part by AT&T.

"The IDA nomination is a significant benchmark in the historical development of the Briscoe Center for American History," said Carleton, who is the Center’s executive director. "We are honored to be among the films considered for this coveted recognition."

When I Rise tells the inspiring story of Barbara Smith Conrad, a gifted University of Texas music student who finds herself at the epicenter of racial controversy, struggling against the odds and ultimately ascending to the heights of international opera. An object lesson on living life with dignity and grace, When I Rise will premiere on the Emmy® Award–winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by America Ferrera, on Tuesday, February 8, 2011, at 10 PM ET (check local listings).

In 1957, Conrad was part of the first racially integrated undergraduate class at the University of Texas and was cast in an opera as the romantic lead opposite a white male student. A bitter controversy stemming from the casting decision made its way to the halls of the Texas legislature, where segregationist representatives applied pressure to the university. When Conrad was removed from the opera, the incident escalated to the national stage, prompting singer Harry Belafonte – one of the era’s most popular entertainers – to offer to underwrite Conrad’s studies at the institution of her choice.

Rather than flee, Conrad chose to stay at the University of Texas and complete her degree, graduating in 1959. This small-town girl, whose voice and spirit stem from her roots in East Texas, emerged from the incident to become an internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano and headliner on stages around the world.

Since its premiere at the 2010 South by Southwest International Film Festival, When I Rise has been named an official selection of the Dallas International Film Festival, the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, the Indianapolis International Film Festival (Black Expressions Award and Audience Award), the New York City International Film Festival, the New Orleans Film Festival, and the Denver Film Festival.

To learn more about the film, visit the site: