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junction city

Focus Features

Update: Feb. 25.

When Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman," a satire about race in America, won an Academy Award Sunday night for best adapted screenplay, one of the Oscars went to Kansas filmmaker Kevin Willmott, who co-write the film with Lee, Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz.

Seven years ago, a toxic form of algae bloomed in Milford Lake near Junction City. Kansas had never really seen a bloom quite like it before. It lasted for almost three months and has returned every summer since.

The event set state scientists looking for what spurred the blue-green algae, scientifically known as cyanobacteria, and how to stop the return of what is essentially killer pond scum.

As the filmmaker's latest collaboration with Spike Lee becomes the must-see movie of the moment, we talk to Kevin Willmott about BlacKkKlansman, race in America, the purpose of satire, and his own life story, which begins in Junction City, Kansas. This hour-long interview is part of our Portrait Session series.

  • Kevin Willmott, filmmaker and KU professor of film and media studies