KU Professors Take Their Film on Slavery to Sundance
A satirical film on slavery created by two University of Kansas professors was selected as an official entry in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival held last month in Park City, Utah.
“CSA: Confederate States of America” is written, produced and directed by Kevin Willmott, an assistant professor in KU’s theatre and film department. The film’s cinematographer, Matt Jacobson, is also an assistant professor in the department. The film was selected for the “American Spectrum” category at Sundance, which is regarded as the foremost showcase for American independent films.
“CSA” uses a faux documentary style to examine what the United States would be like if the South had won the Civil War.
“The South lost the war, but they sold us on their way of life — segregating the races,” Willmott said. Willmott posed questions to support his premise: “How did Kansas, a free state, become segregated? Why is it the Topeka Board of Education case? You would think it would be the Mississippi Board of Education case.”
The Sundance invitation is a first for Willmott.
“Sundance provides filmmakers major exposure and the opportunity to find the perfect distributor,” Willmott said. “The idea is to go there and sell the film so we can get our message out to as many people as possible. We want people all over the world to see that relevant, high-quality films can be made in the Midwest. This film is another facet of KU’s ‘Commitment to Excellence.’ We hope that people will see this film and think, ‘Wow, KU has really got it going on!'”
Jacobson first attended the festival last year for his work with the documentary “Bukowski: Born Into This.”
“It was one of the few documentaries to find a distributor at the 2003 festival,” Jacobson notes. “It’s exciting to be going back for 2004. It’s not often that a cinematographer from Kansas, or anywhere for that matter, makes it into competition at a festival like this two years in a row.”
“CSA” funding sources included a grant from the National Black Programming Consortium, a PBS affiliate and KU’s New Faculty Research Grant program.
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