SXSW Film Reviews

SXSW Film Reviews

When I Rise

Documentary Feature, Lone Star States
D: Mat Hames; with Barbara Smith Conrad, Harry Belafonte

Opera may not be thought of as a battleground in the civil rights movement, but this Austin-made documentary proves it was, vividly recounting how in 1957 state legislators pressured the University of Texas to pull an African-American freshman from a production of Dido and Aeneas because she'd be playing the love interest of a white student. Strong archival images and articulate interviews thrust us back to the UT of that era and make us feel the impact on the young Conrad, who, then and now, couldn't be more poised and regal playing Aida. In revealing this episode as a crucible for the East Texas native, how she transcended it to become an internationally renowned mezzo-soprano, and how both university and Legislature eventually made amends to Conrad, director Hames' film is as soaring and inspirational as the spirituals that have always given Conrad solace and strength.

Wednesday, March 17, 11:30am, Paramount

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