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Film & media studies professor takes Oscar for co-writing 'BlacKkKlansman'

Monday, February 25, 2019

LAWRENCE — After months of Oscar buzz, Kevin Willmott’s work on “BlacKkKlansman” was lauded with an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay Feb. 24.

Willmott, a University of Kansas film & media studies professor, co-wrote the screenplay for the 2018 film about Ron Stallworth, the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Stallworth wrote a 2014 memoir about how he infiltrated a cell of the virulently white supremacist Ku Klux Klan.

Willmott collaborated on the screenplay with Spike Lee, Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz. The film has been gathering accolades, from the Grand Prix prize at the Cannes Film Festival to a BAFTA award for best adapted screenplay.

His body of work includes films about the Wilt Chamberlain era of KU basketball, Jim Crowe with a sci-fi twist, 19th century Native American boarding schools, what the nation could have looked like had the South won the Civil War and another collaboration with director Lee about Chicago gun violence. (Watch a video of Willmott discussing “Chi-Raq.”)

Willmott has announced or begun work on at least three more films: He and several KU colleagues are collaborating on "I, Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled," a documentary about the prolific 20th-century writer and one-time Kansan. It has a tentative release date in 2020. Willmott has begun work on another documentary with a Kansas angle, a film version of the 2018 book by KCUR-FM editor C.J. Janovy, "No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas." And he announced recently the start of another collaboration with Spike Lee titled "Da Five Bloods," a dramatic film about black Vietnam War veterans.

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