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|
|Starring||Rupert Pate |
LaMont Collins, Jr.
|Narrated by||Charles Frank|
|Music by||Erich L. Timkar |
|Edited by||Sean Blake |
|Distributed by||IFC Films|
C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America is a 2004 American mockumentary that is directed by Kevin Willmott. It is an account of an alternate history, wherein the Confederacy wins the American Civil War and establishes a new Confederate States of America that incorporates the majority of the Western Hemisphere, including the former contiguous United States, the "Golden Circle", the Caribbean, and South 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.: The Confederate States of America is presented as if it were a British documentary being broadcast on Confederate television network, including fictional advertisements between segments. 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.
The film 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 found the C.S.A.), is interviewed. Narration explains fake historical newsreel footage, which is either acted for the production, or made of genuine archival 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, television programs such as Runaway (parodying Cops), Leave it to Beaulah (parodying Leave it to Beaver and Beulah), Better Homes and Plantations (parodying Better Homes and Gardens), Meet the Nation (parodying Meet the Press) and That's My Boy, Sambo X-15 Axle Grease, Darkie Toothpaste, Gold Dust washing powder, Niggerhair cigarettes, and the Coon Chicken Inn restaurant. Confederate films shown included A Northern Wind (parodying the famous 1939 film Gone with the Wind), I Married an Abolitionist (parodying the 1949 film I Married a Communist), The Dark Jungle and The Jefferson Davis Story. Additional advertisements 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 various classic cartoons: Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks, and Yogi Bear. 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 actually exist, citing Uncle Ben's and Aunt Jemima as examples. (Both products were rebranded following the George Floyd protests in 2020.)
In 1862, following the Union victory in the Battle of Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln issues the "Emancipation Proclamation", but the attempt fails. Confederate President Jefferson Davis takes the opportunity to secure British and French aid for the Confederacy, allowing them to win the Battle of Gettysburg, capture Washington, D.C., and take over the White House a few months later. In 1864, Union General Ulysses S. Grant surrenders to Robert E. Lee, ending The War of Northern Aggression. Lincoln is captured, imprisoned for war crimes, and exiled to Canada, while abolitionist Harriet Tubman is executed. Shortly before his death, Lincoln laments in an interview his failure to make the abolition of slavery the primary aim of the Civil War, and expresses his hopes that it will one day be achieved.
The Confederacy annexes the remainder of the United States, moving its capital to Washington, D.C., and introduces a tax on non-slaveowners in order to spread the institution in the North. Influential scientist Samuel A. Cartwright "discovers" a supposed disease that causes slaves to run away, and declares slaves to be livestock. Canada become havens for exiled abolitionists and runaway slaves, with relations with the Confederacy remaining peaceful but tense. The last free Plains Indians nation falls to the Confederacy in 1890, while Chinese migrant workers on the West Coast are made slaves. In 1895 the Confederacy adopts Christianity as the state religion in an attempt to quash religious influence among foreign slaves. Before his own death, Jefferson Davis, citing Judah P. Benjamin's contributions to the Confederate cause, secures a reservation for Jews on Long Island. Meanwhile, in a parallel to the Spanish–American War, the Confederacy embarks on a prolonged expansionist campaign to conquer the Caribbean and all of Latin America as part of their "Golden Circle".
In response to the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the Confederacy revives the trans-Atlantic slave trade from its state of Liberia. While maintaining neutrality in European affairs, it becomes friendly with Nazi Germany, although it disapproves of the Final Solution due to a preference for enslavement over extermination. Seeing Japanese expansionism as a threat, however, it launches a preemptive strike against two naval bases and the city of Kyoto on December 7, 1941. With the conflict proving far longer and bloodier than anticipated, the Confederacy recruits black soldiers with promises of freedom after the war that they have no intention of keeping. The Japanese are ultimately defeated by the use of the atomic bomb, while the Soviet Union conquers Germany and all of Europe and its colonies except the British Empire. Due to a Red Scare-like panic over abolitionism, the Confederacy erects a wall called the Cotton Curtain along the border with Canada, while much of the rest of the world refuses to trade with it due to its relations with the former Nazi Germany.
Republican John F. Kennedy is elected President in 1960, dealing with foreign policy issues such as the Newfoundland Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War. Canada becomes increasingly dominant in culture and sports; the Confederacy is forced to allow slaves to compete in the Olympic Games, but Kennedy is assassinated before he can follow through on reforms for racial and gender equality. The institution of slavery remains in place up through 2002, when allegations that Democratic presidential candidate John Ambrose Fauntroy V has black ancestry cost him the election and lead to his suicide.
The film's official website contains an expanded timeline of the history of the C.S.A., which features events not covered in the documentary. The timeline identifies President William McKinley's assassin as an abolitionist rather than Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist. The C.S.A. manages to advance in space technology by smuggling former Nazi scientists out of Germany before its occupation by the Soviet Union. Rosa Parks is identified as a Canadian terrorist and a member of the Black Panthers. Richard Nixon is eventually elected Confederate President in his own right after losing the 1960 election to Kennedy. During his presidency, Nixon travels to China in 1972, talks with the Chinese government which opens the way for Confederate-run labor camps to be run in China, which in turn results in cheaper goods being made and imported from China. However, Nixon is forced to resign due to the Watergate scandal, reminding the public that “I am not a Negro!”. The failed assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981 occurs in New York City instead of St. Peter's Square, with the assailant being a Southern Baptist from Tennessee named Maynard Brimley, who is tried and executed. The Gulf War results in Kuwait becoming a Confederate 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 to high viewership. 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 reserves, and converting the entire Middle Eastern populace to Christianity.
- 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, a descendant of Confederate senator John Ambrose Fauntroy I and Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2002.
- Charles Frank as the documentary's narrator.
- Steve Jasen as the voice of Abraham Lincoln
- Arlo Kasper as Old Abraham Lincoln
- Kevin McKinney as Blackface Abraham Lincoln
- Joyce Jefferson as the voice of Harriet Tubman
- Will Averill as Blackface Harriet Tubman
- Brian Paulette as Jefferson Davis
- Lauralei Linzay as Varina Davis
- Sean Blake as Adolf Hitler
- Glenn Q. Pierce as the voice of Robert E. Lee
- Marvin Voth as the voice of Walt Whitman
- John Staniunas as the voice of William Lloyd Garrison
- Greg Funk as the voice of Wendell Phillips
- Kevin Willmott as the voice of Frederick Douglass
Kevin Wilmott began production on the film with a funding from the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) and wrote its first draft in 1997.
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' 1990 [[television documentary The Civil War. It was produced by Hodcarrier Films.
The film grossed $744,165 worldwide in limited release.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 80% based on reviews from 66 critics. On Metacritic the film has a score of 62 out of 100 based on reviews from 22 critics, indicating "Generally favorable reviews". Most critics were intrigued by the film's premise, but some found the execution to be lacking primarily due to a low budget. In 2018 James Berardinelli wrote: "The movie is ultimately more interesting in satire than the presentation of a legitimate alternate timeline. This doesn't invalidate C.S.A.'s approach but it limits its effectiveness as a sort of Twilight Zone look at the last 150 years."
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