C.S.A.: The Confederate States Of America
There are some branches of quantum physics that believe there are an infinite number of alternate universes. The postulation has come up in science fiction that some of these universes would differ from ours by changing a key event that would then ripple through their time line. Now that science fiction has had a go at this premise it is now time for satire to take it on. Kevin Wilmott mock-documentary ‘CSA: Confederate States of America’ looks at what our country may have been like if the South had won the Civil War. Actually, in this world that war retained it’s more southern name, the war of Northern aggression. The format of the film is modeled after the style of the well renowned British documentarian, Ken Burns. The Confederate Public Broadcasting station warns that this controversial film from England will be presented in its entirety and warns that the content may not be suitable for children and chattel. The way the South turned the tide is subtle at first. After Lincoln issues the emancipation proclamation the South turns the public opinion around. The war is not because of slavery it is a matter of state rights. With slavery gone as the main reason for the conflict the South managers to gain allies overseas, British and French forces join the South at Gettysburg and route the North. The South then annexes the northern States into the Confederacy and Abraham Lincoln becomes a president in exile. With the help of Harriet Tubman he attempts to flee to Canada in blackface only to be captured and eventually exiled. Just about every major movement that shaped the real United States is present here only with the little twist. Manifest Destiny becomes more than moving to the west coast, it becomes the right of Christian White men to guide and protect the less fortunate non-white races. In the late 1800’s a war is fought that brings Mexico and the Caribbean islands under the control of the CSA. Mexico is not conducive to slavery so there the CSA institutes an ‘Apart’ government, separate and not equal that defines racial relations and roles. In order to get out from under the global depression on the 1930’s the CSA comes up with a solution; reinstitute the slave trade with the CSA at the helm. Soon they are selling slaves to other nations and the economy is back on track. Susan B. Anthony fights for an end of slavery instead of just women’s rights. The CSA attacks Japan on December 7th, 1941 bring them into World War II. Hitler is welcomed to visit CSA plantations and slaver factories and urged not to kill the Jews in Europe as it would be a tragic loss of potential slaver labor. When a member of a preeminent family, the Fauntroys is assassinated there are slave rebellions in Watts and Newark. Instead of the Red Menace of the fifties being communism it becomes the abolitionist views of Canada resulting in a wall across the Canadian border dubbed the Cotton Curtain.
What really sets this film apart is how true it remains to the format. There are even commercials and newsbreaks all in character with the premise. They even go into some of the films and television shows that where popular in the CSA such as a fifties sit-com ‘Leave It to Beulah’ the early D.W. Griffith film ‘The Hunt for Dishonest Abe. The commercials are out right racist hawking such produces as ‘Darky toothpaste’ and ‘Coon Chicken’ restaurants. There are public service spots such as the one for the department of racial identification where people can report their neighbors for possibly passing for white by calling 1-800-555-PASS. The popular TV series COPS now is Runaway where police track down and capture runaway slaves. There is even a Martha Stewart look alike with a show Better Home and Plantations. One of the most pointed fake shows advertised is the SSN, the Slave Shopping Network. The little inside joke is revealed at the end, most of the bigoted products shown in the commercials actually did exist. Every aspect of our culture is brought to the forefront such as the parody of corporate training films on how to be ‘one of the good ones’ where slaves are taught to turn in any potential runners. There is a spot that will seem very familiar to anyone that has watched television, a trade school that teaches people to become overseers or chattel enforcement agents. One medical commercial spot offers a little blue pill that will help your slaves be clam. They urge you to consult your veterinarian.
Kevin Wilmott remains true to his vision through this film. He uses the tried and true documentary format of re-enactments and talk head experts to get the point across. There is even a black woman, a Canadian naturally, that looks at the side of the issue opposing the policies of the CSA. While much of this satire is presented with a sledge hammer some of it is delightfully underplayed. If the anti-bellum ethic became the national norm there would be repercussions that extend beyond racial interaction. What if the Southern view of womanhood also became the norm? In this film women still did not have the vote well into the 1960’s. Women where not offered the opportunity to education and advancement that are taking for granted today. Still, race dominates the film and it is done with no uncertainty. When a Fuantroy is running for President a family slave reveals to the crew of the documentary that he is of mixed race. Fuantroy responds with the televised statement ""My great-granddaddy did not have sexual relations with that woman!"
Because of the format of the film the video is uneven. Much of the video is aged to seem like archival footage. It would appear that great attention to detail was given so that each piece of the film would come across as from the period it was supposed to. Satire does have a tendency to be a bit over the top and this film is no different on that account. Sometimes the point is made too overtly and repeated too often but that is often the manner that such documentaries are presented.
The Independent Film Channel along with Genius Products has been providing smaller films that many people may have missed. Little gems like this tend to be too controversial for the major studios but they still are well worth your time and adding to your collection. They also have added some interesting extras just to make life a little more interesting. There are two audio commentary tracks. The first features director Kevin Willmott and producer Rick Cowan. It goes into the more technical aspects of the production including how the ‘aged’ material was used and some of the problems faced. The second commentary is by Willmott alone detailing the thought process behind the film and the social need for it today. There are some deleted scenes that where better left on the editor’s floor. A making of featurette rounds things out. This film will make you think about just how different our country could have been. It also forces us to consider that after all that did happen we still have a long way to go.