About to be separated, they are forced to make a terrifying choice.

Daniel and Mary sued for freedom and won. But the widow of their former slaveholder challenged the Bells’ freedom in court. Threatened with re-enslavement, and the sale of their children, they led the largest escape attempt in US history.

The Bell Affair is a uniquely produced animated drama that tells the lesser-known stories of slaves who sued for their freedom prior to the Civil War.

“The delicate artistry of lead VFX artist and supervising producer Michael Burton (’07) brings to life the artistic expression rotoscoped in broad swaths of remarkable beauty. Burton’s skilled live animation adds a visceral quality to The Bell Affair that makes the emotions of our characters dynamic as we witness them navigate through the uncertainty of their day-to-day lives.” – Nebraska Alumni Association.

“The searing story of the enslaved Bell family’s fight for freedom.” – WYPR. All Things Considered.

“Bell organized the largest attempted slave escape in history with 77 people, including four of Bell’s children, on a schooner called “The Pearl.” Unfortunately, they would be captured with most of them eventually sold to slave owners in Vicksburg, Mississippi.” – The Washington Informer.

  • Honorable Mention – 2022 Silk Road Film Awards Cannes
  • Official Selection – 2022 Prince George’s Film Festival
  • Official Selection – 2022 Golden State Film Festival


  • Anthony Wilcox as Daniel Bell
  • Myeisha Essex as Mary Bell
  • Deborah Madick as Susan Armistead
  • Arista Jackson as Ann Bell
  • Darla Davenport as Lucy Bell

2021 / Drama / English / 82 minutes / A film by Kwakiutl Dreher.


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