LAWRENCE — In the face of Jim Crow-era violence and intimidation, many African-Americans living in southern states headed to northern cities, hoping to find new homes free from oppression.
In the new film directed by KU film professor Kevin Willmott, “Destination: Planet Negro!,” they leave Earth entirely.
The first screening of “Destination: Planet Negro!” will be 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St. Tickets are $7 for the public and free for film cast and crew members.
Willmott’s latest project centers on a group of African-Americans living in the Jim Crow era who devise a plan to travel to and populate the planet Mars.
“The idea of African-Americans trying to find a new homeland has been a big discussion in history,” Willmott said. “For example, there was talk of turning the state of Oklahoma into a black state at one point.”
In “Destination: Planet Negro!” the three-person crew of African-Americans rocketing off to Mars is “taking that concept to the next level,” said Willmott, adding that the film is a comedy/satire.
Willmott is an accomplished screenwriter and director whose prior works include “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America,” about how U.S. history could have played out, had the South won the Civil War, as well as “The Only Good Indian,” the story of a Native American boy forced to assimilate into white culture. Both films were screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
Saturday’s “Destination: Planet Negro!” screening is a fundraiser for the construction of a new building for the Department of Film & Media Studies, Willmott said.
“It’s a great film to see during Black History Month, because it shows how far African-Americans have come, but also how far we need to go,” he said.
It stars KU graduates Tosin Morohunfola and Danielle Cooper, as well as Willmott.
A question-and-answer session with Willmott will follow the screening.
The film is not scheduled for any other screenings yet, but Willmott is working to get “Destination Planet Negro!” shown during upcoming film festivals in New York and California.