September 14, 2022

Lincoln premiere of ‘The Bell Affair' is Sept. 21 at the Ross

Multiple generations of the Bell family.
Courtesy | Salt Marsh Productions

Courtesy | Salt Marsh Productions
Multiple generations of the Bell family talk in the family kitchen in a still image from "The Bell Affair."

A new animated feature film from Husker scholars Michael Burton, Kwakiutl Dreher and William G. Thomas will premiere locally at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center.

“The Bell Affair” tracks the true story of the Daniel and Mary Bell family, chronicling the legal fight for Mary’s freedom following a widow’s rejection of a deed of manumission, the legal document granting freedom to an enslaved person signed by a slaveowner.

These courtroom battles culminated in an escape attempt on April 15, 1848, when 77 enslaved people boarded the schooner, Pearl. It was the largest escape attempt in American history, though unsuccessful.

The Bell Affair was produced entirely remotely due to COVID-19. The world premiere was held in June in front of a sold-out audience at Publick Playhouse, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, part of the greater Washington, D.C., area.

Trailer for "The Bell Affair"

The film was produced by Salt Marsh Productions, which was founded by Husker scholars Michael Burton, assistant professor in textiles, merchandising and fashion design; Kwakuitl Dreher, associate professor in English; and William Thomas, professor of history, Angle Chair in the Humanities, and associate dean for research and graduate education in the College of Arts and Sciences. It was produced with funding from prominent humanities organizations, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, Maryland Humanities, and the Kitty M. Perkins Foundation.

The screening is free and open to the public. Tickets are available at the Ross box office.

Learn more about the premiere.