Jan. 16, 2004

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Contact: Mary Jane Dunlap, University Relations, (785) 864-8853.

Spike Lee to present KU professor's film selected for Sundance Film Festival

LAWRENCE -- Kevin Willmott, University of Kansas assistant professor of theatre and film whose satirical film, "CSA: Confederate States of America," will be shown at the Sundance Film Festival, has announced that critically acclaimed director Spike Lee will lend his name as executive producer of Willmott's film.

The film will be shown at Sundance, which opens this week, as "Spike Lee presents a Kevin Willmott film." Willmott said that Lee's name accompanies that of Marvin Voth, Lawrence resident, who also is executive producer for "CSA."

The Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 15 through 25 in Park City, Utah. The first of four screenings of "CSA" at the festival will be Saturday, Jan. 17. The film was selected for the American Spectrum category at Sundance.

Lee learned of Willmott's film a few weeks ago through their mutual agent. After getting permission to view "CSA," Lee called Willmott at KU and later offered to lend his name as an executive producer.

"CSA" uses a faux documentary style to examine what the United States would be like if the South had won the Civil War.

In a statement released today in Park City, Utah, Lee said, "'Confederate States of America' is an eye-opening, jaw-dropping and insightful look at the history of America. 'CSA' also is a boldface, urgent answer to 'Cold Mountain' and you could even say the likes of 'Gone with the Wind' also.

"When I saw this film I had to ask myself, 'When will Hollywood stop side-stepping, avoiding and also completely dismissing the legacy of slavery?'"

Willmott describes "CSA" as probably the most controversial film never to have sex, nudity or violence, due to the topic -- slavery. In "CSA," slavery is alive and well in modern America.

Several production and crew members for the film have accompanied Willmott to the Sundance Film Festival. Those attending Sundance with Willmott include:

 • Sean Blake, co-producer, editor and actor, 2001 KU theatre and film alumnus originally from Augusta, now living in Lawrence
 • Rick Cowan, producer, Kansas City, Mo.
 • David S. Gramly, crew member, KU master's degree student in theatre and film from Overland Park
 • Matt Jacobson, cinematographer for "CSA" and assistant professor of theatre and film at KU
 • Marvin Voth, an executive producer, Lawrence resident

Willmott first mentioned Spike Lee's interest in his film during a Jan. 8 press conference in Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' office in Topeka. The governor recognized Willmott, a Junction City native, for being the first filmmaker to live in and make a film in Kansas and to be selected for the annual Sundance Film Festival.

The film was shot on location in Humboldt, Lawrence and the Kansas City area using local talent. In addition, Willmott says that because this was a low-budget production he and his crew had to barter and ask a lot of favors, such as finding locations and borrowing costumes or props in those communities.

An earlier version of the film was shown in Lawrence in February 2003.

This is Willmott's first invitation to Sundance and Jacobson's second consecutive year in the competition at the festival, regarded as the foremost showcase for American independent films. Past festivals have included films that have charted the history of independent cinema such as "Sex, Lies and Videotape," "Hoop Dreams," "The Full Monty," "Shine," "The Blair Witch Project" and "In the Bedroom."

Willmott's previous films include "Ninth Street," winner of the Independent Film Channel Award and based on Willmott's experiences growing up in Junction City. His screenwriting credits include collaborating with Mitch Brian on "Shield Green and the Gospel of John Brown" and co-writing the script of Michael Blake's "Marching to Valhalla" for Oliver Stone. He also collaborated with Brian to write the NBC miniseries "The '70s." His latest scripts are titled "Colored Men" and "Gotta Give It Up!"

CSA Screenings at the Sundance Film Festival
8:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17: Prospector Square Theater
11:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18: Prospector Square Theater
8:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 19: Holiday Village II
9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20: Broadway Centre Cinemas VI, Salt Lake City

PRESS SCREENING
2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18: Yarrow Hotel Theater

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