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Briscoe Center's When I Rise Honored At International Filmmaker Festival

October 23, 2012

Award recipients Don Carleton (right), executive producer When I Rise, and Hamadou Djime (left), director The Adventure of Cohollyingwood Black PrinceAward recipients Don Carleton (right), executive producer When I Rise, and Hamadou Djime (left), director The Adventure of Cohollyingwood Black Prince

AUSTIN, Texas — The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History's documentary film When I Rise has won two awards at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema in Kent, United Kingdom.

The Briscoe Center is part of The University of Texas at Austin.

When I Rise documents the story of Barbara Smith Conrad, an African American University of Texas music student who became the target of racial discrimination after being cast in an opera alongside a white classmate.

The film won Best Short Documentary and Best Editing, Short Documentary. It was nominated for four awards. Produced by the Briscoe Center, When I Rise is an Alpheus Media Production, in association with Allentown Productions. It is distributed internationally by Mercury Media.

"I'm proud to lead a team of historians and curators who use their creativity to bring history alive to public audiences," said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center and the film's executive producer. "It's also exciting to think that our film is helping tell the story of Texas and the university around the world."

The film has aired nationwide on PBS and is now being shown worldwide including Israel, Spain, Hong Kong, Sweden and New Zealand. It has also been viewed by many students in classroom settings as part of the Briscoe Center's efforts to support the university's teaching mission.

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When I Rise film poster

"When I Rise is a wonderful tribute to an extraordinary woman who faced bigotry and injustice on her way to becoming a world-renowned artist," said Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin. "The film is a story of courage, grace and triumph. Barbara Smith Conrad is one of UT's most beloved alumni. She has inspired generations of students to make The University of Texas their university."

In 1957 Barbara Smith Conrad was removed from the cast of a university opera production after the state Legislature threatened to pull public funding for the college, an incident that became national news. The film remains true to the story of a small-town girl whose voice and spirit stemmed from her roots in East Texas. Sixty years on, Conrad is an internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano, an ambassador for the university and an honoree of the Texas Legislature. Her archives are held at the Briscoe Center.

"I knew I could sing," Conrad told The New York Times in 2011, regarding her decision to renew ties with the university. "I didn't know if I could forgive."