Rice conference to explore making films about history

The new documentary film “Alligator-Horses” and the art of making films about history will be the topic of a conference at Rice University March 21-22.

The conference is open to the public and will begin March 21 with a free premiere screening of “Alligator-Horses” at 7 p.m., preceded by a 6 p.m. reception, and continue March 22 with scholarly presentations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. All events will be in the Rice Media Center’s Rice Cinema Film Theatre.

"Alligator-Horses" explores the so-called raunchy youth of 1830s America viewed through the lens of the first decade of the 21st century, according to the documentary's makers.

“Alligator-Horses” was created by Texas filmmakers Brian Huberman, a Rice associate professor of visual and dramatic arts, and Edward Hugetz, the interim senior vice president for academic affairs/provost at the University of Houston-Downtown. The documentary explores the so-called raunchy youth of 1830s America viewed through the lens of the first decade of the 21st century, according to Huberman. “Materials used to evoke our perspective of the time include Penny Press newspapers, Davy Crockett almanacs, blackface minstrel songs and a cast of contemporary scholars, including Rice faculty and students,” Huberman said.

Fifteen years in the making, the three-hour documentary is structured in five parts around famous and less-known events, including King Philip’s War, Davy Crockett’s tour of the Northeast, the murder of New York prostitute Helen Jewett, Jim Crow at the Bowery Theater and the anti-abolition riots of 1834.

The conference is titled “Making Films About History: Specifically the Role of Sex and Violence in 1830s America and Its Relationship to Race, Class and Nationalism.” Speakers will include Huberman and Hugetz as well as Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, professor emeritus of history, American culture and women’s studies at the University of Michigan, and David Shields, distinguished writer-in-residence at the University of Washington.

A panel of Rice faculty will respond to the speakers: Rachel Buchman, lecturer in music at the Shepherd School of Music; Tish Stringer, lecturer and film program manager in the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts; Charles Dove, professor in the practice and film program director in the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts; and Brian Riedel, professor in the practice of humanities and assistant director of the Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality.

The screening and conference are sponsored by Rice’s Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts, the School of Humanities and the Humanities Research Center.

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