Best Local Filmmaker

Kevin Willmott

University of Kansas professor Kevin Willmott generated an international buzz when his faux documentary, CSA: Confederate States of America, turned heads at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The film imagines what life would be like if the South had won the Civil War. We were especially intrigued by some of the overseas reviews. "Provocative and teetering on the edge of taste, this sometimes heavy-handed and awkward film is nevertheless incendiary stuff," wrote The Times of London. "It didn't take long for Willmott's solo joke about trading slaves on the Home Shopping Channel and other racially inspired capitalist acts to get stale," griped Peter Howell of The Toronto Star. Bullcrap. We've seen the movie, and Willmott tells layer upon layer of genius-level jokes, starting with his structure, which parodies the work of Civil War documentarian Ken Burns. Besides, Willmott is unfazed by such criticisms. "Movies like this aren't made very much anymore, especially about subjects that are very controversial," he tells us. "We don't give a wink and a nod. Everything in the film is based in truth, so we don't let the audience off the hook. It's not a Saturday Night Live sketch. It's really funny, but it's horrific at the same time; it's fascinating and unbelievable but totally true. That's what makes it special, and that makes some people uncomfortable. I always knew that." Willmott says some people told him not to make the film because it would be upsetting. But, he notes, "We don't move forward without making people a little upset." Look for a national release in January, with Kansas City and Lawrence getting early dates right along with Los Angeles and New York.

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