Destination Planet Negro

Film professor Kevin Willmott wrote and directed the 2013 film "Destination Planet Negro."

Jokes about wanting to escape Earth to inhabit another planet are nothing new, but the motivations behind them are. In the film “Destination Planet Negro,” a time-travel film based on the 1950s films “Destination Moon” and “Rocketship X-M” Earth’s people do exactly that. “Destination Planet Negro” is playing Sunday at 4 p.m. at Liberty Hall.

Kevin Willmott, a professor of film and media studies at the University, wrote, directed and starred in the satirical science fiction film in 2013.

“I’ve always liked science fiction films that had a social point of view like ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘The Twilight Zone,’” Willmott said.

This movie is set in 1939, as African-American leaders look at the imminent problem of segregation. Their solution is to build a rocket ship and inhabit Mars. On the way to Mars, they travel to the future by mistake. In the scenes to follow, their adventure criticizes America and its culture.

“When President Obama was elected, I really wanted to tell a story that showed how far African Americans have come and how far we still need to go,” he said.

John McCluskey, an assistant technical director of film and media studies at the University, plays Mama Mau-Mau, a white rapper in “Destination Planet Negro.”

McCluskey, also known by his rap persona Johnny Quest, has been a part of the hip-hop community on a local and national level since the late 1990s, so he said this role was an easy transition for him.

McCluskey’s character helps bring some comedy into the film by teaching the time travelers how to fit in.

“The joke of my character in particular is that when they come into the future, modern day Kansas City, I, as a white rapper, am teaching them how to be black in the modern sense,” he said.

McCluskey said that Willmott was trying to touch on social issues that happened four to five years ago. He said that there have been more outward demonstrations of racism in the United States and that the divide in this country has gotten more prominent.

“I think what [Willmott] wants people to realize is that even post-Jim Crow, post-Civil Rights Movement, it is still very difficult for black people in America,” McCluskey said. “In a sense, I think it’s gotten worse since Trump has been elected.”