Baby boomer storyteller teams with director Spike Lee

[Update: BlacKkKlansman is being heralded by the 2019 Academy Awards — six nominations, including Best Picture. Kevin was nominated for co-writing the screenplay in the category Best Adapted Screenplay]

Two baby boomers are at the top of their game right now and their game is movie-making. Spike Lee is one of them; he’s a household name. The other is less well known, but equally talented and equally celebrated: Kevin Willmott. The two of them teamed up on a film – BlacKkKlansman – that calls attention to white supremacist groups and the Ku Klux Klan. BlacKkKlansman is now an Oscar contender.

At age 59, baby boomer Kevin Willmott is an extraordinarily busy man … and that’s in addition to being a professor of film and media studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. Yes, he can also be found many days at his office developing and writing a play for a local theatre in Lawrence. But there’s much more…

Kevin Willmott

Kevin is an active film director and screenwriter, and his latest film is so celebrated that it won the top award at the prestigious international 2018 Cannes Film Festival, together with a ten-minute standing ovation.

He wants us to pay attention, especially to the ironies and stereotypes in our society. His satirical style has teamed him with the likes of famed director Spike Lee. Their latest film is called “BlacKKKlansman.” Kevin was co-writer.

Adam Driver (left) with John David Washington.

“BlacKKKlansman” tells the true story of an undercover black detective (played by John David Washington) and his Jewish partner (Adam Driver) who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the Colorado Springs area in the 1970s.

Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott.

Three years ago, Kevin collaborated with Spike Lee on “Chi-Raq,” a film that focused on gang violence on Chicago’s south side.

Kevin has written about absurd perceptions in American society. Racism, antisemitism, prejudice. For example, his film “C.S.A: The Confederate States of America” examined what would have happened if the South had won the Civil War.

“The Only Good Indian” was about Native American children at an Indian boarding school and the forced assimilation that took place.

Some critics of Kevin’s work say he focuses too much on race. “Well, if you haven’t noticed, I’m black,” he counters. “I’ve had to deal with race my entire life. My kids have had to deal with it. And their kids will have to deal with it. (Racism) should be one of the many things we fight against in America.”

You may remember Kevin in the news last year for wearing a bulletproof vest while teaching class. He’s still wearing it. “It’s an ongoing battle” at the university, he says, between pro-gun and anti-gun groups, and those who want to permit guns in the classroom are winning.

“As long as I’m teaching at KU, I’ll be wearing the vest as protest to that policy,” Kevin says. He sees no place for guns in schools. “The art that I make and produce always has a message of justice and peace.”

2 Comments

  1. Professor Willmott, congratulations to you and Spike Lee on your Oscar nominations. BlackKlansman is a great movie and deserves all of the praise and recognition it receives. Most of all, thank you for who you are as a person and an artist. It’s sad that in 2019 you have to teach while wearing a bullet-proof vest to make a point that should be a no-brainer: guns have NO place in classrooms or schools.

  2. Great to see Spike Lee coming around.

    Several years ago (probably 10 – not sure), I saw Spike Lee in an interview in which he made some borderline anti-semitic remarks. I also recall reading an article a few years after that in which he was apoplectic to be called an anti-semite, after he made some overtones along those lines. At the time I thought that “…the lady dost protest too much”.

    Albeit, most recently I’ve seen him in a few interviews and was very impressed. Either he’s come to his senses OR, my negative reaction a while back was overblown. In any event, this looks like a great film!

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