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Willmott’s latest documentary chronicles life of civil rights leader Alvin Brooks

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Willmott’s latest documentary chronicles life of civil rights leader Alvin Brooks

Jun 06, 2024 | 11:06 am ET
By Tim Carpenter
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Willmott’s latest documentary chronicles life of civil rights leader Alvin Brooks
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Academy Award-winning filmmaker Kevin Willmott will debut in June a documentary about civil rights activist Alvin Brooks, who was the first Black policeman in Kansas City, Missouri, and was chosen as one of the 1,000 points of light by President George H.W. Bush. (Kansas Reflector screen capture of image from Kevin Willmott and Hodcarrier Films)

TOPEKA — Academy Award-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott’s latest documentary film captures the life of civil rights leader Alvin Brooks, who was one of the first Black police officers in Kansas City, Missouri, and served as the city’s first Black department director.

Brooks also was founder of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, elected to the city council in Kansas City, appointed to the National Drug Advisory Council and named one of America’s 1,000 Points of Light by President George H.W. Bush in 1989.

Willmott, a professor of film and media studies at the University of Kansas, said “The Heroic True-Life Adventures of Alvin Brooks” delved into childhood trauma of Brooks’ potentially lethal encounter with a racist police officer, Brooks’ lifetime of work to bridge racial divides in America and consequences of downplaying the challenges posed by persistent racism in the United States.

“I have tried to tell stories that other people don’t want to tell and that Hollywood definitely is not interested in,” Willmott said. “There’s this whole thing right now that people don’t want to hear the ugly part of the American story. They don’t want Alvin to tell what happened to him on that street corner 82 years ago. But to me, you can’t get to the beautiful part of the American story without dealing with the ugly part.”

In 2019, Willmott won the Academy Award with Spike Lee, Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz for best adapted screenplay on the film “BlacKkKlansman.” The movie told the story of how a Black police officer in Colorado Springs, Colorado, infiltrated and exposed a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

The premier of the film about Brooks is scheduled for June 19 at the Juneteenth Film Festival in Kansas City, Missouri. It also is scheduled to be shown 6 p.m. June 30 at the Lawrence Arts Center as part of the Free State Festival in Kansas.

Willmott said the documentary of Brooks provided viewers a path through a dark period of American politics.

“We’re so divided, and there’s so much hate going on right now,” Willmott said. “Alvin is a reminder of what we can be. He’s a reminder of the best of us.”

The film ties into Brooks’ autobiography, “Binding Us Together: A Civil Rights Activist Reflects on a Lifetime of Community and Public Service,” that was published in 2021.

Brooks, 92, said in an interview with KMBC television that he prayed the nation eventually found the path to freedom, justice, equality, understanding and reconciliation.