C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America

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C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America
C.S.A. The Confederate States of America poster.jpg
Directed by Kevin Willmott
Produced by Rick Cowan
Ollie Hall
Sean Blake
Victoria Goetz
Benjamin Meade
Andrew Herwitz
Marvin Voth
Written by Kevin Willmott
Starring Rupert Pate
Evamarii Johnson
Larry Peterson
Narrated by Charles Frank
Music by Erich L. Timkar
Kelly Werts
Cinematography Matt Jacobson
Edited by Sean Blake
David Gramly
Distributed by IFC Films
Release dates
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 a new Confederate States of America that incorporates the entire former United States of America. The film primarily details significant political and cultural events of Confederate 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.[1] It was produced through his Hodcarrier Films.

Overview[edit]

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 restaurant. 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, which features among other classic cartoons: Dixie and Pixie, Jinks, and Yogi Bear. 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.

Part I[edit]

War and Rebellion[edit]

In an alternate United States history, the "Confederate States of America" (C.S.A.) was formed after Republican and Union President Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, fearing that their ownership of Negros was ending. They engaged with the Union in "the War of Northern Aggression" (which was the fictionalized form of the American Civil War in this reality). Following the Union victory in The Battle of Antietam, President Lincoln issued a revolutionary proclamation entitled the "Emancipation Proclamation" (which announces that all slaves are permanently free), but—within this fictionalized reality—the proclamation failed. Confederate President Jefferson Davis took this opportunity to counteract the proclamation and send politician Judah P. Benjamin to persuade the military and financial aid of United Kingdom and France to the Confederacy in their fight against the Union. Benjamin also created the "Southern Cause of States' Rights" which proclaims Southerners have the right to have private property and doesn't proclaim it being the salvation of slavery. Eventually after the success of Benjamin's gambit, the Confederates—with the aid of British and French forces—were able to win the Battle of Gettysburg, capture Washington, D.C. and take over the White House a few months later, but by then the now deposed President Lincoln had escaped scot free. Union General Ulysses S. Grant surrenders to Confederate General Robert E. Lee on April 9, 1864 (exactly a year before the date of Lee's actual surrender to Grant at Appomattox), effectively ending the civil war. The hunt for the now deposed President Lincoln (now disguised in blackface) and abolitionist Harriet Tubman was undertaken, and both are eventually captured, which became the prime subject of D. W. Griffith's fictional classic silent film called The Hunt for Dishonest Abe released in 1915 and shows a humorous reenactment of Lincoln and Tubman's failed escape attempt. Abraham Lincoln was quickly tried for war crimes against the Confederacy and was imprisoned in Fortress Monroe, Virginia, where he watched the execution of Tubman from his cell. In 1866, Lincoln—frail and gaunt from his two-year sentence—is fully pardoned by the now President Davis and exiled to Canada, where he remains until he dies in June 1905 at the age of 96, who was, around the time of his death, was noted that he was disgraced, disillusioned, abandoned and nearly forgotten by history entirely. Shortly before his death, Lincoln laments, in an interview, not having made the Civil War a battle to end slavery, and blames himself for it. He also hopes that the colored people of the C.S.A. will gain independence, but regrets he won't live long enough to see it happen.

Reconstruction[edit]

After the civil war ended, the victory of the South winning the Civil War was the cause of immense celebration, with many plantations welcoming back the troops to a now "blessed and triumphant" lifestyle. After Confederate soldiers moved further east, burning New York City and Boston down to the ground, the Confederacy—with the stroke of a pen—annexes the remainder of the United States, and renames the nation as the "Confederate States of America" (C.S.A.) and abolishes all of the old American symbols and replaces them with their own symbols, including the nation's flag (from the traditional U.S. Flag to the Confederate Naval Jack flag), the national currency (which the Confederate States of America dollar became the dominant currency of the C.S.A.) and the national anthem (from "The Star-Spangled Banner" to "Dixie", ironically written by a northerner).

But President Davis—after leaving Richmond, Virginia and moving into the White House—faced difficulty to induce the North in accepting the institution of slavery, until 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, discovering a fictional disease to cause slaves to runaway. Following the success of the new slave tax, 20,000 former U.S. citizens—most of them being Northerners (i.e. Wendell Phillips, Mark Twain, Susan B. Anthony, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Lloyd Garrison, among others)—led an exodus from the C.S.A. to Canada. Canada, along with the Russian colony of Alaska, was able to remain free from the C.S.A. and soon became the home to refugee abolitionists, runaway slaves, and former citizens of the United States and—thanks to the efforts of both Garrison and Frederick Douglass of convincing the Canadian Parliament and Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald to not repatriate escaped slaves—together formed an organization known as the "National Association of the Advancement of Chattel People" (N.A.A.C.P.). The strong hatred of the N.A.A.C.P., Canada, and the "The Red Canadian Injustice" for the C.S.A. dates back to the end of the War of Northern Aggression and the beginning of Re-Construction for the massive loss of their slaves, who sought Canada as both freedom and asylum from the C.S.A.

Along with the Red Canadian Injustice, Reconstruction efforts for the C.S.A. proved to be a challenge with pioneers, gold-prospectors, the Plain Indians—which a war against them lasted almost 30 years—and the railroad expanding from the South into the Great Plains. In the 1890s, a decision is taken to enslave the West Coast Chinese migrant workers, too. In 1895, the government of the C.S.A., which does not separate the Church from the State out of fear for more foreign slaves and their religious beliefs in contrast to the C.S.A., 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) on Long Island.

A "Splendid Little War"[edit]

By the beginning of the 20th century, the Confederate States of America has finished reconstruction and begins an expansionist campaign to claim the Southern hemisphere as part of their "Golden Circle" with only Alaska and Canada remaining free from being "client states" of the CSA. They began with Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean islands during the Spanish–American War, then moved on to completely annex Mexico and Central America. Following the annexation of Mexico and Central America, the Confederates adopted the "Apartheid" system to divide the Confederates—who now rule the country—and the Mexicans, where they were both separate and unequal and the Mexicans knew—by the now domineering Confederates—to know and stay in their place. Confederates saw that the conquest of South America would be the nation's "prized piece", but would prove difficult due to the intensity of the will of the South American to stay independent from the invading Confederates. For the entire thing, Confederates believed that this was an ordained and divine Manifest Destiny-esque quest for world supremacy, although it wasn’t entirely specified if this was so.

The Great Depression and World War II[edit]

In 1929, with Mexico, Central and South America, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the Caribbean all part of their "growing empire" from their expansionist campaign, the C.S.A. was hit by 1929 economic crash, forcing them to retreat into isolationism, but extricates itself by reviving the Trans-Atlantic slave trade with New African slaves provided by collaborationist African leaders who enslave members of other tribes.

During the Second World War, the C.S.A. became friendly with Nazi Germany and their ideologies calling them "biologically correct", but disagreed with Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution" for a pure Aryan Continent, hoping to exploit non-white races as a slave labor force instead of murdering them. The C.S.A. agrees to remain neutral in any German war. However, the C.S.A. becomes hostile with Japan, seeing its expansionism as a threat to the entire Pacific Coast Region. On the morning of December 7, 1941 (the date of the actual attack on Pearl Harbor), the C.S.A. strikes two Japanese naval bases and bombs the city of Kyoto as the opening blow in a war against the "Yellow Peril". Confederate leaders assume that the C.S.A. will easily win the war, judging the Japanese as small and weak in physical stature, as well as not being white, but—just like their campaign in South America—the Japanese proved to be an intense challenge to defeat.

During the war, the C.S.A. 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 with no explanation). This regiment receives the most dangerous missions and suffers high casualties, but earns the respect of white officers. The war is won by using the atomic bomb. The European war still ends in the Nazis' defeat, albeit with many more Soviet casualties.

Part II[edit]

Cold war with Canada[edit]

During the 1950s, despite their tranquil and peaceful times, the C.S.A. suffer the effects of "Abolitionism" and violent attacks from a splinter group of the N.A.A.C.P. called the "John Brown Underground" (J.B.U.). To safeguard and counter the fears of Abolitionism and the Red Canadian Injustice, the C.S.A. erects a border barrier wall along the entire Canadian border called the "Cotton Curtain" (a lampoon of the Iron Curtain) to divide the C.S.A. from Canada. But after a series of abolitionist attacks and the C.S.A. neutrality in the Second World War and being friendly with Nazi Germany, the Summit Nations impose international trade sanctions and embargoes on the C.S.A., forcing the nation into isolation once again with South Africa becoming the only British-Empire country maintaining diplomatic relations with the C.S.A.. The success of the embargo on the C.S.A. left some to question the need for slavery.

A New Frontier[edit]

In 1960, when only 29 percent of voters approve of slavery, Roman Catholic Republican John F. Kennedy is elected C.S.A. president over Democrat Richard Nixon. However, foreign policy such as the Newfoundland Missile Crisis[2] distracts him, and he is unable to implement his domestic agenda. Also throughout the 1960s, the Vietnam War is briefly mentioned as an "expansionist campaign" of the C.S.A., also women demanded the right to have a voice and Canada became 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. Canada also continuously defeated the C.S.A. in the Olympic Games, which brought the Confederate congress to include slaves in sports, forming their very first C.S.F.L. championship games. This illustrated the time to break the color barrier and support Kennedy's movement to emancipate. But before this movement would sent into motion, President Kennedy was assassinated. Kennedy's assassination completely dismantled the hopes of emancipation and for women to get the vote. Slaves throughout the country rebelled in fury and retaliation, including the Watts Riots, as a direct result of Kennedy's assassination. In the 1970s, the Social Revolution was crushed and many feared that the "Golden Age" of the Confederate States of America was over.

Modern day[edit]

By the start of the 1980s and the 1990s, the Confederacy has largely put away such self-doubt of the terrible years beginning with the death of President Kennedy and continued throughout the 1970s. 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. 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 the J.B.U.—John Brown Underground). 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".

Expanded timeline[edit]

The film's official website contains an expanded timeline of the history of the C.S.A., which features events not covered in the mockumentary. The timeline identifies President William McKinley's assassin as an abolitionist rather than an anarchist. The C.S.A. manages to advance in space technology by smuggling Nazi scientists out of East Germany before its annexation by the Soviet Union.[3] Rosa Parks is identified as a Canadian terrorist and a member of the J.B.U.. The failed assassination attempt on 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.[4] The Gulf War has Kuwait as C.S.A. territory. In 1995, Tim McVeigh blows up the Jefferson Memorial instead of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City; his execution is broadcast on pay-per-view.[5] 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 entire populace to Christianity.[6]

Cast and crew[edit]

Main cast[edit]

  • 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 in 2002.
  • Charles Frank as the mockumentary's narrator.

Crew[edit]

  • 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

Reception[edit]

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.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Second Civil War", Village Voice, February 7, 2006 .
  2. ^ "Confederate Geographic: Newfoundland Missile Crisis", CSA the movie 
  3. ^ "Confederate Geographic: Operation Aryan Angel", CSA the movie .
  4. ^ "Confederate Geographic: Assassination Attempt of Pope John Paul II", CSA the movie .
  5. ^ "Confederate Legacy Presents C.S.A.: A Historical Timeline", CSA the movie .
  6. ^ "Confederate Geographic: The 1st Crusade", CSA the movie .
  7. ^ Box Office Mojo

External links[edit]