Kevin Willmott’s latest film documents life of civil rights figure Alvin Brooks

photo by: KU Marketing

Kevin Willmott is pictured speaking at an event at KU in 2021.

A documentary capturing one of Kansas City’s first Black police officers and the city’s first Black department director, Alvin Brooks, will premiere Wednesday at the Juneteenth Film Festival at the Screenland Armour Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri.

The film, “The Heroic True-Life Adventures of Alvin Brooks,” was written, produced and directed by Kevin Willmott, a professor of film and media studies at the University of Kansas. In 2019, Willmott won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his Spike Lee collaboration “BlacKkKlansman.” The film was based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first African American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department in the 1970s.

Willmott’s upcoming documentary dives into Brooks’ many-faceted career — as founder of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime and its Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line, as a City Council member in Kansas City, as an individual named one of America’s 1,000 Points of Light by President George H.W. Bush in 1989 and as an advocate for civil and human rights.

Willmott and Brooks met 20 years ago while filming another documentary about the racial history of Kansas City’s public hospital, “From Separate to Equal: The Creation of Truman Medical Centers.”

They remained in contact, and Willmott wrote the blurb for Brooks’ autobiography, “Binding Us Together: A Civil Rights Activist Reflects on a Lifetime of Community and Public Service,” which was published in 2021. Willmott said it included many great stories and inspired the making of the documentary.

“They’re almost unbelievable, but they’re very true,” Willmott said.

According to Willmott, Brooks is history come to life and has a special way with people.

“I think he’s a great example of an American hero,” Willmott said. “He’s someone who can communicate with all of these diverse groups, gain their respect and trust and bring them together.”

Brooks, now 92, said in an interview with KCUR that he still keeps up with community engagements, answering calls for help, supporting grassroots anti-crime efforts and continuing to fight for justice.

Willmott hopes the audience will take away the power and importance of Brooks’ story and will regard him as a reminder of what we can be.

“I think he gives us an example of how to live as a public servant, a member of the community, and what it looks like to be a real leader,” Willmott said.

There will be two showings at the Juneteenth Film Festival on Wednesday, at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. The film will also be presented at 6 p.m. June 30 at the Lawrence Arts Center as part of the Free State Festival.


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