C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America
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|C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America|
|Directed by||Kevin Willmott|
|Produced by||Rick Cowan
|Written by||Kevin Willmott|
|Narrated by||Charles Frank|
|Music by||Erich L. Timkar
|Edited by||Sean Blake
|Distributed by||IFC Films|
|Release dates||January 2004
(Sundance Film Festival)
|Running time||89 minutes|
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 early 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, and included 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 an orthodox Confederate interpretation of American history.
It portrays two historians: Sherman Hoyle, a conservative Southerner, and Patricia Johnson, a black Canadian, as "talking heads," providing commentary. Throughout the documentary, 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 dubbed with fictional narration.
Racialist adverts aimed at white slave-owning families appear throughout the movie, including an electronic shackle for tracking runaway slaves, a Runaway television program (parodying COPS), Sambo X-15 Axle Grease, Darkie Toothpaste, Gold Dust washing powder, Niggerhair cigarettes, and the Coon Chicken Inn. Additional commercials were produced but deleted from the film's final cut, including several for the Confederate States Air Force and a children's show, Uncle Tom and Friends. The sitcom Beulah is portrayed as Leave It to Beulah. Also shown is a slave auction held online, with the Internet replacing the traditional slave market.
At the film's end, titles note that parts of the alternate timeline are based on real history, and that some of the racist products depicted did exist.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (January 2012)|
American Civil War
In the fictional timeline, politician Judah P. Benjamin has persuaded the United Kingdom and France to aid the Confederacy in their fight against the Union. Eventually, Confederates, with the aid of British and French forces, win the Battle of Gettysburg, capture Washington, D.C. and take over the White House. Union General Ulysses S. Grant surrenders to Confederate General Robert E. Lee on April 9, 1864—effectively ending the American Civil War. The hunt for the now deposed President Abraham Lincoln (disguised in blackface) and abolitionist Harriet Tubman was undertaken, and both are eventually captured. Abraham Lincoln is sent to prison in Norfolk, Virginia, where he watches the execution of Tubman from his cell. In 1905, a fictional silent film, directed by D. W. Griffith, entitled The Hunt for Dishonest Abe, shows Tubman helping Lincoln try to escape to Canada. After two years, Lincoln is pardoned by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and exiled to Canada, where he dies in June 1905 at the age of 96. Shortly before his death, Lincoln laments not having made the Civil War a battle to end slavery. In the Confederate States of America, the conflict is known as the War of Northern Aggression.
After the civil war ended, the South was in mass celebration for the victory in the war. After Confederate soldiers moved further east, burning New York City and Boston down to the ground, the Confederacy—with the swipe of a pen—annexes the remainder of the United States, and renames the nation the "Confederate States of America" (C.S.A.) and tore some of the old American symbols and replaced them, including the national anthem (from "The Star-Spangled Banner" to "Dixie", ironically written by a northerner).
But the now President of the United States Jefferson Davis faced difficulty to induce the North in accepting 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 medical science. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Confederate States of America becomes the Western hemisphere's superpower, occupying all of the continental United States along with Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Haiti, Cuba, and South America with a blend of segregation, apartheid, and semi-slave labor, with only the Russian colony of Alaska and Canada that isn't the "client states" of the C.S.A., and with Canada being the home to refugee abolitionists and runaway slaves. Eventually, the C.S.A. erects a wall along its Canadian border called the "Cotton Curtain" (referencing the Iron Curtain). The strong hatred of "The Red Canada" dates back 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 some time, flees there), whereas the C.S.A.'s culture never evolves beyond its propaganda.
In 1895, the government of the C.S.A., 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 Jews to remain on a reservation (similar to a Native American reservation) in Long Island. In the 1890s, a decision is taken to enslave the West Coast Chinese migrant workers, too.
World War II
The CSA is hit by the 1929 economic crash and extricates itself by reviving the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. New African slaves are provided by collaborationist African leaders who enslave members of other tribes.
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 CSA military suffers massive losses, and tries 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. 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 Confederates 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 the Confederacy to its former Southern Protestant Biblical values, such as 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 Nazi scientists out of East Germany before its annexation by the Soviet Union. Rosa Parks is identified as a Canadian terrorist and a member of the John Brown Underground. 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 called Runaway. It featured 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. Other excerpts come from The Dark Jungle, a fictional film about the war of conquest in Latin America, which is a reference to Paths of Glory, as well as I Married an Abolitionist, which is a reference to the 1949 anti-Communist propaganda feature I Married a Communist.
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-granddaddy 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. Amen."
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
- Golden Circle (proposed country)
- Slavery in the United States
- "The Second Civil War", Village Voice, February 7, 2006.
- "Confederate Geographic: Newfoundland Missile Crisis", CSA the movie
- "Confederate Geographic: Operation Aryan Angel", CSA the movie.
- "Confederate Geographic: Assassination Attempt of Pope John Paul II", CSA the movie.
- "Confederate Legacy Presents C.S.A.: A Historical Timeline", CSA the movie.
- "Confederate Geographic: The 1st Crusade", CSA the movie.
- Box Office Mojo