'Bell Affair' available to stream beginning March 26

· 3 min read

‘Bell Affair’ available to stream beginning March 26

Myeisha Essex and Anthony Wilcox play Mary and Daniel Bell in "The Bell Affair."
Courtesy | Salt Marsh Productions
Myeisha Essex and Anthony Wilcox play Mary and Daniel Bell in 'The Bell Affair.'

The award-winning film “The Bell Affair,” created by a team of Husker scholars, will be available via video on demand beginning March 26.

The live-animation film will be available for purchase or rent on various streaming platforms, including iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. It is based on the 2020 book, “A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War,” by William G. Thomas III, professor of history, Angle Chair in the Humanities, and associate dean for research and graduate education in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The film tracks the 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 ever recorded, though unsuccessful.

Anna, Bell Affair Team
Craig Chandler | University Communication
The filmmaking team behind 'The Bell Affair' is Kwakiutl Dreher (left), William G. Thomas III (center) and Michael Burton.

Showcasing an important piece of history never before portrayed on film, “The Bell Affair” was filmed and directed remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, with no two cast members ever in the same room. The film was led by first-time director Kwakiutl Dreher, associate professor of English at Nebraska; digital artist, animator and first-time producer Michael Burton, assistant professor of textiles, merchandising and fashion design at Nebraska; and prize-winning historian and Guggenheim Fellow Thomas. The film stars Anthony Wilcox, Myeisha Essex, Deborah Madick, Arista Jackson, Darla Davenport and Don White.

“The Bell Affair” was created by Salt Marsh Productions (co-founded by Burton, Dreher and Thomas) and produced by Western Meadowlark LLC. It received major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Maryland Humanities, the Kitty M. Perkins Foundation, and the Office of Research and Economic Development at Nebraska. The video on demand distribution agreement is a partnership between NUtech Ventures and independent film company Random Media.

“The Bell Affair” is part of Salt Marsh Productions’ Animating History series, combining the expertise of artists and filmmakers with the scholarship of historians and writers to produce unique and compelling historical documentaries. The streaming launch follows the film’s award-winning festival run, which included a win for best animation at the Prince George’s Film Festival and recognition from the Silk Roads International Film Festival and Golden State Film Festival.

The Bell Affair | Official Trailer
Trailer for 'The Bell Affair'

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