Jan. 30, 2004

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

'River City Weekly' host talks with KU professor about 'CSA' at Sundance

LAWRENCE -- Kevin Willmott, KU assistant professor of theatre and film, is featured on this week's edition of "River City Weekly" on Sunflower Broadband Channel 6. The show airs at 7:30 weeknights and 8:30 a.m. weekdays through Tuesday, Feb. 3, and at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 31.

Willmott and Matt Jacobson, cinematographer for the film and KU assistant professor of theatre and film, returned to KU this week after showing their film "CSA: The Confederate States of America" at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. In this week's edition of "River City," Willmott talks with the show's host, Greg Hurd, about "CSA."

"CSA" is a faux documentary depicting an America in which the South won the Civil War, complete with mock commercials featuring products geared toward a society still practicing slavery.

At the festival, Willmott and Jacobson sold "CSA" to IFC Films, which will distribute the film both to theatres as a 35mm film and on video in the United States.

"We hope that when it is on 35mm that we can work with IFC to have a screening of 'CSA' in the Lawrence area," Willmott said. IFC films include the Oscar-nominated "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."

"A 35mm theatrical release is exactly what we were trying to achieve," Willmott said. "It makes our film that much more marketable, and gets it out in front of more people, than a direct-to-video release.

Approximately 20 KU students who worked on the film or are studying theatre and film also traveled to Sundance to watch their professors present "CSA." The KU students attended receptions given by the Kansas Film Commission for the cast and crew of "CSA "and joined Willmott and Jacobson in offering information about KU to reception guests.

Jacobson said, "Our current students who came with us received a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Seeing the way a film festival works when you have a major film in competition is different from going to a festival as an audience member."

As the festival began, Willmott announced that acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee had agreed to be an executive producer with Marvin Voth from Lawrence. "After our first screening, noted black filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles called 'CSA' 'brilliant,'" Jacobson said. The high point for Willmott and Jacobson was selling their film to IFC.

During the festival Willmott spoke on two panels about "The New 'New' Black Film" and "Documentary or Fiction: The Growing Debate over the 'Hybrid' Form."

Film reviewers from London to Los Angeles took note of "CSA." The London Guardian wrote: "The provocative 'CSA: The Confederate States of America' is an odd hybrid, a sci-fi mockumentary that poses as a BBC (renamed BBS) production from an alternate universe. Film-maker Kevin Willmott takes a simple, daring conceit and pushes it to the max." The LA Weekly film reviewer said "CSA" was "undoubtedly one of the fest's best offerings."

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!"

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