- C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America
C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America Directed by Kevin Willmott Produced by Rick Cowan
Written by Kevin Willmott Narrated by Charles Frank Starring Rupert Pate
Music by Erich L. Timkar
Cinematography Matt Jacobson Editing by Sean Blake
Distributed by IFC Films Release date(s) January 2004
(Sundance Film Festival)
Running time 89 minutes Country United States Language English
C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America is a 2004 mockumentary directed by Kevin Willmott. It is a fictional "tongue-in-cheek" account of an alternate history, in which the Confederates won the American Civil War, establishing the new Confederate States of America (that incorporates the former United States as well). The film primarily details significant political and cultural events of C.S.A. history from its founding until the 2000s. This viewpoint is used to satirize real-life issues and events, and to shed light on the continuing existence of discrimination in American culture. C.S.A was released on DVD on August 8, 2006.
Willmott, who had earlier written a screenplay about abolitionist John Brown, told interviewers he was inspired to write the story after seeing an episode of Ken Burns' The Civil War. It was produced through his Hodcarrier Films.
The movie is presented as if it were a British documentary being broadcast on Confederate network television, even including fictional commercials between segments of the documentary. It opens with a (fictional) disclaimer that suggests that censorship came close to preventing the broadcast, that its point of view might not coincide with that of the TV network, and that it might not be suitable for viewing by children and "servants". It purports to disagree with the orthodox Confederate American interpretation of American history.
It portrays two historians, Sherman Hoyle, a conservative Confederate States of America (CSA) white man, and Patricia Johnson, a black Canadian, as "talking heads," providing commentary. Throughout the documentary, a Confederate politician and Democratic presidential candidate, John Ambrose Fauntroy V (the great-grandson of one of the men who helped to create the CSA), is interviewed. Narration explains faux historical newsreel footage, which is either acted for the production, or made of genuine footage with fictional, dubbed narration.
Racist ads aimed at white slave-owning families appear throughout the movie, including an electronic shackle for tracking runaway slaves, a Runaway television program (satirizing COPS), Darkie Toothpaste, Gold dust washing powder, Niggerhair cigarettes, and the Coon Chicken Inn. Additional commercials were produced but deleted from the final cut, including ads for the Confederate States Air Force and the children's show Uncle Tom and Friends. The sitcom Beulah is portrayed as Leave It to Beulah.
At the film's end, titles note that parts of the fictional CSA timeline are based on real-life history, and that some of the advertised products did exist.
American Civil War
In the fictional timeline, politician Judah P. Benjamin persuades the United Kingdom and France to aid the Confederacy. Several British and French divisions help the Confederates to win the Battle of Gettysburg, and eventually capture Washington, D.C. The war is brought to an end, and Confederacy annexes the United States. A fictional D. W. Griffith silent film shows Harriet Tubman helping Union President Abraham Lincoln (disguised in blackface) try to escape to Canada after the CSA's military defeat of the Union. Confederate soldiers capture them; Tubman is put to death and Lincoln imprisoned. After two years, Lincoln is pardoned and exiled to Canada, where he dies in June 1905 at age 96. Before dying, Lincoln laments not having made the Civil War a battle to end slavery. In the aftermath, the conflict is known by the CSA as the War of Northern Aggression.
After the war, the South tries to induce the North to accept the institution of slavery. John Ambrose Fauntroy I introduces a tax that is alleviated by the purchase of slaves, and the works of Samuel A. Cartwright dominate Confederate American medical science. The CSA becomes the Western hemisphere's superpower — conquering and occupying all of the continental US, Mexico, Central America,the Caribbean, and South America, with a blend of segregation and apartheid. Only Canada is not a CSA "client state", becoming home to refugee abolitionists and escaped black slaves. The Confederates construct a wall along the border between the two countries called the "Cotton Curtain" (referencing the Iron Curtain). Hatred of "Red Canada" dates to the late 19th century, when Frederick Douglass convinces the Canadian Parliament not to repatriate escaped slaves. Canada becomes the popular culture capital of the world with the contributions of African Americans and other exiles (Elvis Presley, after being jailed for a time, flees there), whereas the CSA never evolves beyond heavy-handed government propaganda.
In 1895, the Confederate government, which does not separate the Church from the State, outlaws all non-Christian religions. After much debate, the Roman Catholic Church is classified as a Christian religion. Originally, Judaism, too, is outlawed, but after a dying Jefferson Davis cites the crucial contribution of the Jewish Judah P. Benjamin, the government decides to allow some American Jews to remain on a reservation (similar to a Native American reservation) in Long Island.
World War II
During World War II, the CSA is friendly with Nazi Germany, but disagrees with Adolf Hitler's Final Solution — the CSA preferring to exploit non-white races instead of exterminating them. The CSA agrees to remain neutral in any German war. However, the CSA becomes hostile with Japan, seeing its expansionism as a threat to the entire Pacific Region. Confederate leaders assume that the CSA will easily win the war, judging the Japanese as small and weak in physical stature, as well as being non-white. On December 7, 1941 (the date of the actual attack on Pearl Harbor), the CSA strikes two Japanese naval bases and bombs the city of Kyoto as the opening blow in a war against the "Yellow Peril". During the war, the CS military suffers massive losses, and tried to solve its manpower shortages by recruiting a black regiment by promising slaves their freedom if they would fight (which is later revealed to be a lie). This regiment receives the most dangerous missions and suffers high casualties, but earns the respect of white officers. The war is won using the atomic bomb. However, the European war still ends in German defeat, albeit with many more Soviet casualties. After the war, the Summit Nations impose trade sanctions and embargoes on the CSA, forcing the nation into isolation. South Africa becomes the only country maintaining diplomatic relations with the CSA.
Cold war with Canada
During the 1950s, a series of abolitionist attacks cause some Confederate Americans to question the need for slavery. In 1960, when only 29 percent of voters approve of slavery, Roman Catholic Republican John F. Kennedy is elected CSA president over Democrat Richard Nixon. However, foreign policy such as the Newfoundland Missile Crisis distracts him, and he is unable to implement his domestic agenda before being assassinated. The Vietnam War is briefly mentioned as an "expansionist campaign" of the CSA. Slaves rebel throughout the country, including the Watts Riots. Democratic Senator John Ambrose Fauntroy V presents programs returning America to its former Southern Protestant Biblical values — tolerance of adultery and of husbands beating their wives, and intolerance of homosexuals. By the early 1990s, the Confederacy has largely put away such self-doubt.
The documentarians ask Senator (and presidential candidate) Fauntroy V to arrange an interview with some slaves, but it becomes clear that the slaves have been coached. However, they are clandestinely passed a note instructing them to meet a black man named Big Sam (earlier identified as the fugitive leader of a radical splinter group of the "National Association for the Advancement of Chattel People"). Big Sam, in turn, leads them to Horace, a lifelong slave of Fauntroy's, who alleges Fauntroy V is part black, sharing a common slave ancestor. The racial accusations cost Fauntroy V the presidential election; a month later, the senator commits suicide on December 12, 2002. Narration then states DNA tests were "negative."
The film's official website contains an expanded timeline of the history of the CSA, which features events not covered in the mockumentary. The timeline identifies President William McKinley's assassin as an abolitionist rather than an anarchist. The CSA manages to advance in space technology by smuggling 244 Nazi scientists out of Germany before its fall to the Soviet Union. Rosa Parks is identified as a Canadian terrorist and a member of the Black Panther Party. The failed assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II occurs in New York City instead of St. Peter's Square, with the assailant being a Southern Baptist who is subsequently executed for the crime. The Gulf War has Kuwait as CSA territory. In 1995, Timothy McVeigh blows up the Jefferson Memorial instead of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City; his execution is broadcast on pay-per-view. The War in Afghanistan and subsequent American interventions in the Middle East are known as the 1st and 2nd Crusades, with the goal of eradicating the "Muslim Menace" by overthrowing the Islamic governments, taking over their oil production and converting their populace to Christianity.
References to actual culture
Many allusions are made to actual cultural events or products in present-day society. For instance, one of the "commercials" features a Cops-like program featuring escaping fugitive slaves instead of criminals. Also, the film describes (meta) fiction made to ease tensions after the "War of Northern Aggression". These include Summer of my Union Soldier, a reference to the 1973 novel Summer of My German Soldier. Also, an excerpt is shown from A Northern Wind, which is claimed to be one of the most famous Confederate films of all time. This is a reference to the Academy-Award winning film Gone with the Wind, which is further exemplified by the fact that the central female character in the former is named Violet. Also, several times during the film, a version of the song "Over There" can be heard, with the line "The Yanks are comin'" changed to "The Rebs are comin'". Another scene references the first "Confederate American Football Championship" (a parody of the Super Bowl) which featured teams named the New York Niggers and Washington In'juns. The latter is a parody of the Washington Redskins and both names may be a reference to the Native American mascot controversy.
References are made to political issues in present-day society as well. For instance, after John Ambrose Fauntroy V is accused of having a black great-great grandmother, which under CSA law would make him a colored person, he states, "My great-great grand-daddy did not have sexual relations with that woman". This is a reference to President Bill Clinton's similar comment during the Lewinsky scandal. The film closes with Confederate schoolchildren reciting a modified form of the Pledge of Allegiance, substituting "Confederate States of America" for "United States of America" and ending the pledge by saying, "with liberty and justice for all white people".
Cast and crew
- Rupert Pate as Sherman Hoyle, a Confederate American historian who speaks highly of the Confederate American values
- Evamarii Johnson as Patricia Johnson, an African-Canadian historian whose viewpoints focus on the slaves and minorities oppressed by the Confederate regime
- Larry Peterson as Senator John Ambrose Fauntroy V, descendant of Confederate senator John Ambrose Fauntroy I and Democratic candidate for the presidency
- Charles Frank as the mockumentary's narrator
- Director: Kevin Willmott
- Writer: Kevin Willmott
- Producers: Rick Cowan, Ollie Hall, Sean Blake, Victoria Goetz, Benjamin Meade, Andrew Herwitz and Marvin Voth. (The film, after the initial public release, became a Spike Lee production.)
- Editors: Sean Blake and David Gramly
The film received generally positive reviews, garnering a 78% approval rating via Rotten Tomatoes. Most critics were intrigued by the film's premise, but some found the execution to be lacking primarily due to a low budget. The film grossed US$744,165 worldwide in limited release.
- American Civil War alternate histories
- ^ "The Second Civil War", Village Voice, February 7, 2006, http://www.villagevoice.com/2006-02-07/film/the-second-civil-war/ .
- ^ "Confederate Geographic: Newfoundland Missile Crisis", CSA the movie, http://www.csathemovie.com/timeline/moreinfo/newfoundland.html [dead link].
- ^ "Confederate Geographic: Operation Aryan Angel", CSA the movie, http://www.csathemovie.com/timeline/moreinfo/aryan_angel.html .
- ^ "Confederate Geographic: Assassination Attempt of Pope John Paul II", CSA the movie, http://www.csathemovie.com/timeline/moreinfo/pope_jp2.html .
- ^ "Confederate Legacy Presents C.S.A.: A Historical Timeline", CSA the movie, http://www.csathemovie.com/timeline/ .
- ^ "Confederate Geographic: The 1st Crusade", CSA the movie, http://www.csathemovie.com/timeline/moreinfo/crusades.html .
- ^ Box Office Mojo
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