C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America
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|C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America|
Theatrical release poster
|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.
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 documentary The Civil War. It was produced by Hodcarrier Films.
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.
War and Rebellion
In 1861, the southern, slave-owning states of the United States of America secede from the Union to form the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.) after Republican Abraham Lincoln is elected president in the 1860 election, due to fears over the abolition of the ownership of Negro slaves. The C.S.A. engage with the Union in "The War of Northern Aggression"; following the Union victory in the Battle of Antietam, President Lincoln issues a revolutionary proclamation entitled the "Emancipation Proclamation", but—within this alternate history—the proclamation fails.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis takes this opportunity to counteract the Proclamation and send politician Judah P. Benjamin to persuade the United Kingdom and France to provide military and financial aid to the Confederacy in their fight against the Union. Benjamin also promotes the "Southern Cause of States' Rights", which proclaims Southerners have the right to private property (slaves not being mentioned specifically). Benjamin's gambit succeeds, and soon the Confederates—with the aid of British and French forces—are able to win the Battle of Gettysburg, capture Washington, D.C., and take over the White House a few months later. 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 (on the run and disguised in blackface) and abolitionist Harriet Tubman is undertaken, and both are eventually captured, becoming the prime subject of D. W. Griffith's fictional 1915 silent film The Hunt for Dishonest Abe. Lincoln is quickly tried for war crimes against the Confederacy and is imprisoned in Fortress Monroe, Virginia, where he watches the execution of Tubman from his cell. In 1866, Lincoln—frail and gaunt from his two-year sentence—is fully pardoned by President Davis and exiled to Canada, where he remains until his death in June 1905 at the age of 96, almost entirely forgotten in history.
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 blames himself for it. He also hopes that the colored people of the C.S.A. will one day gain independence, but regrets he will not live long enough to see it happen.
After the war ends, the victory of the South becomes a cause of immense celebration, with many plantations welcoming back the troops to a now "blessed and triumphant" lifestyle. After Confederate soldiers move further east to raid New York City and Boston, the Confederacy annexes the remainder of the United States with the stroke of a pen, renaming the nation the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.) and abolishing all of the old American symbols and replacing them with their own: the national flag is changed from the traditional U.S. Flag to the Confederate Naval Jack flag; the Confederate dollar becomes the dominant currency of the C.S.A.; and the national anthem is changed to "Dixie" (whose composer, Dan Emmett, was a northerner).
After leaving Richmond, Virginia, and moving into the White House in Washington, D.C., President Davis faces difficulty in inducing the North to accept the institution of slavery, until John Ambrose Fauntroy I introduces a tax that is alleviated by the purchase of slaves. Meanwhile, Samuel A. Cartwright, whose theories dominate Confederate medical science, "discovers" a fictional disease that causes slaves to run away, and declares slaves livestock. Following the success of the new slave tax, 20,000 former U.S. citizens—most of them Northerners (e.g., Wendell Phillips, Mark Twain, Susan B. Anthony, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Lloyd Garrison, among many others)—lead an exodus from the C.S.A. to Canada. Canada, along with the Russian colony of Alaska, is able to remain free from the C.S.A. and soon becomes a haven for refugee abolitionists, runaway slaves, and former citizens of the United States, thanks to the efforts of both Garrison and Frederick Douglass in convincing the Canadian Parliament and Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald to not repatriate escaped slaves. Opponents of slavery form an organization known as the "National Association for the Advancement of Chattel People" (N.A.A.C.P.). This "Red Canadian Injustice" fosters a deep enmity for Canada within the C.S.A., and relations between the two nations deteriorate but remain in a state of tense peace.
Reconstruction efforts for the C.S.A. prove to be a challenge, as a 30-year war with the Plains Indians slows efforts by pioneers and gold prospectors to migrate west, and hinders construction of a transcontinental railroad into the Great Plains. In the 1890s, a decision is taken to enslave the Chinese migrant workers on the West Coast. In 1895, the government of the C.S.A. (which has not separated the Church from the state due to fear of foreign slaves using their native religious traditions to influence the C.S.A.) outlaws all non-Christian religions; after much debate, Roman Catholicism is officially accepted as a Christian religion. Originally, Judaism, too, is outlawed, but a dying Jefferson Davis, citing the crucial contribution of the Jewish Judah P. Benjamin, persuades Congress to allow some Jews to remain on a reservation (similar to Indian reservations and bantustans) on Long Island, New York.
A "Splendid Little War"
By the beginning of the 20th century, the C.S.A. has finished Reconstruction and embarked on an expansionist campaign to claim the Western Hemisphere as part of their "Golden Circle". They begin with Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the rest of the Caribbean islands during the fictionalized version of the Spanish–American War, then move on to completely annex Mexico and Central America; only Canada and Russian Alaska manage to remain free of the Confederate yoke. The Confederates impose "Juan Crow"" laws in their conquered territories to divide Hispanics from Confederate settlers and Chinese and African property; and while they believe in an ordained and divine quest reminiscent of Manifest destiny for world domination, conquest of South America proves highly difficult due to the intensity of the will of the South Americans to stay independent from the invading Confederates.
The Great Depression and World War II
In 1929, with Mexico, Central and South America, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the Caribbean all incorporated into its growing empire, the C.S.A. is hit by an economic crash, which forces it to retreat into isolationism; however, the C.S.A. extricates itself by reviving the trans-Atlantic slave trade, with new African slaves provided by collaborationist African leaders who enslave members of other tribes and sell at the Confederate state of Liberia.
During the Second World War, the C.S.A. becomes friendly with Nazi Germany and their ideologies, calling them "biologically correct", though it disagrees with Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution" for a pure Aryan continent, hoping to exploit non-white races as a slave labor force rather than exterminate them. The C.S.A. agrees to remain neutral in any German war, but it becomes hostile with Japan, seeing its expansionism as a threat to the entire West Coast. On the morning of December 7, 1941 (the date of the actual Japanese 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, but like their enemies in South America, the Japanese prove to be an intense foe 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, promising the slaves freedom after the war. This regiment receives the most dangerous missions and suffers high casualties, and despite earning the respect of white officers, when the war concludes the black soldiers are enslaved once more, their promises of freedom being broken without explanation. The Japanese are defeated by the use of the atomic bomb; the European war still ends in the Nazis' defeat, albeit with many more Soviet casualties. Joseph Stalin expands control over all Continental Europe and seizes their colonies. Only the United Kingdom and its Empire remain free from Soviet domination (thanks to Canadian military assistance).
Cold war with Canada
During the 1950s, the C.S.A. suffers the effects of "Abolitionism" (analogous to Red Scare) 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 Canada–Confederate border called the "Cotton Curtain" (in reference to the real-life Iron Curtain) to divide the C.S.A. from Canada. After the C.S.A.'s neutrality in the war and friendly relations with Nazi Germany, the countries of mainland Europe and their overseas colonies (now under Soviet control) impose international trade sanctions and embargoes on the C.S.A., forcing the nation into isolation once again and leaving South Africa as the only British colony to trade with the C.S.A.
A New Frontier
In the 1960 election, when only 29 percent of voters approve of slavery, Roman Catholic Republican John F. Kennedy is elected president over Democrat Richard Nixon. However, foreign policy issues such as the Newfoundland Missile Crisis (à la Cuban Missile Crisis) distract him, and he is unable to implement his domestic agenda. Also throughout the 1960s, the Vietnam War is briefly mentioned as another "expansionist campaign" of the C.S.A., while women organize in groups to demand greater control over their lives. Canada increasingly becomes the pop culture capital of the world thanks to the contributions of American emigrants such as Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Elvis Presley, whereas the C.S.A.'s culture never evolves beyond its propaganda. Canada continuously defeats the C.S.A. in the Olympic Games, forcing the Confederate Congress to include slaves in sports. This illustrates the increasing consensus that it is time to break the color barrier and support Kennedy's movement to emancipate; however, before this movement can be set into motion, President Kennedy is assassinated. Kennedy's assassination completely dismantles the hopes of emancipation of slaves and enfranchisement for women; slaves throughout the country rebel in fury and retaliation as a direct result of the assassination. By the 1970s, the Social Revolution has been crushed and many fear that the "Golden Age" of the Confederate States of America has ended.
By the start of the 1980s and the 1990s, the Confederacy has largely put away the social anxiety self-doubt of the preceding decades. Democratic Senator John Ambrose Fauntroy V, a candidate in the Confederate Presidential election of 2004, campaigns on programs returning the Confederacy to its Southern Protestant Biblical values, encouraging husbands to beat their wives and negating tolerance of homosexuals. The interviewers ask Senator Fauntroy (a member of a prominent political dynasty going back to the founding of the Confederacy) to arrange an interview with some slaves, but it becomes clear that the slaves have been coached. However, during the interview, the film crew is 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 that Fauntroy V is part black, a result of an affair between John Ambrose Fauntroy I and one of his slaves. The allegations, while left unconfirmed, costs Fauntroy the election, and he commits suicide a month later. Narration then states that DNA tests turned up "negative" for the late politician, although whether this confirms or denies the allegations is deliberately left unclear, and a news intermission states that a number of DNA tests taken around the time of Fauntroy's death had been found to have been faulty.
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. 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. The Gulf War results in Kuwait becoming a 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. 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 2004.
- Charles Frank as the documentary's narrator.
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."
- "CSA: The Confederate States of America (2005)". Box Office Mojo.
- "The Second Civil War", Village Voice, February 7, 2006.
- "Confederate Geographic: Newfoundland Missile Crisis", CSA the movie, archived from the original on November 26, 2007
- "Confederate Geographic: Operation Aryan Angel", CSA the movie, archived from the original on January 25, 2007.
- "Confederate Geographic: Assassination Attempt of Pope John Paul II", CSA the movie, archived from the original on January 15, 2007.
- "Confederate Legacy Presents C.S.A.: A Historical Timeline", CSA the movie, archived from the original on January 15, 2007.
- "Confederate Geographic: The 1st Crusade", CSA the movie, archived from the original on January 1, 2007.
- "CSA: The Confederate States of America (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes.
- "C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America". Metacritic.
- LaSalle, Mick (24 February 2006). "What if the South had won the Civil War?". SFGate.
- McCarthy, Todd (9 March 2004). "C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America". Variety.
- Murray, Noel. "CSA: The Confederate States Of America". The A.V. Club.
- Berardinelli, James (January 31, 2018). "C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America". Reelviews Movie Reviews. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
- Alex F. McKenzey (2015-06-29). C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America. Retrieved 2016-07-04 – via YouTube.