Independent filmmaker speaks at university
Lansing and Leavenworth residents got a sneak preview of excerpts from Kevin Willmott's film "CSA: Confederate States of America" when Willmott spoke at the seventh annual Lincoln Lecture Series Monday night at the University of St. Mary, 4100 S. Fourth St. The film, set to be released nationwide late this spring, earned rave reviews at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.
Willmott is an assistant professor of theater and film at the University of Kansas. His movie, "CSA," is a mock documentary depicting what might have happened if the South had won the Civil War, including a look at how modern times would be different if slaves were still permitted.
Willmott said he saw speaking at the university as an important tribute to a man he respects.
"It was a tremendous honor to be speaking about Abraham Lincoln on his day," Willmott said. "He was a man who grew to understand the heart of the problem of America."
Willmott spoke about Lincoln's legacy as a leader and his effective problem-solving abilities.
Willmott's visit to the university was also an opportunity for the independent film producer to reunite with a former professor of his, Robert Schimoler. Willmott was a student of Schimoler's at Marymount College in Salina.
George Steger, chairman of the Lincoln Lecture Committee, said this connection provided an opportunity to ask Willmott to speak at the university.
"(Willmott) is a local person with a strong reputation who has something of value to say," Steger said. "It made it even more convenient that he was a former student of Professor Schimoler's."
Before his presentation and speech, Willmott gathered at a wine reception with university faculty and staff. St. Mary's Concert Chorale presented the songs "Gentle Annie" and "Oh! Susanna," both songs from the age of the confederacy composed by Stephen Foster, a 19th century songwriter.
A dessert reception followed the event.
St. Mary started the lecture series to recognize its collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, some items of which were on display during the reception. The significance Lincoln has to the Leavenworth area dates to 1859 when he gave a presidential campaign speech in downtown Leavenworth. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius gave the keynote address for the lecture last year.