What would’ve happened if the South won the Civil War? Find out by watching this audacious, sometimes brilliant, sometimes heavy-handed mockumentary from director Kevin Willmott.
CSA is staged more or less like Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, mixing still photographs, voiceovers and film clips of how the United States changed after the North was defeated. First, the name was changed to the Confederate States of America, then Jefferson Davis was elected president and then the national anthem was changed to “Dixie”! Some of Willmott’s revisionist history is jaw-dropping like when a disgraced Abraham Lincoln seeks refuge in Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad or when D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation gets a surprising overhaul.
Equally fascinating, yet far more subversive are the commercial breaks for such products like Sambo motor oil and Darky toothpaste. At first they seem like intrusive Saturday Night Live level knockoffs, but in the end we’re told that these products actually DID exist (and in some cases, still do), so it doesn’t seem like a stretch that they would still be marketed in the same exact manner had the South won. The best of these scenes is a commercial for a COPS style reality show where the police track down runaway slaves. (The Bad Boys theme is played as a country song complete with banjos!)
What gives the film added depth is that Willmott doesn’t just limit the “What If?” scenario to the US (sorry CSA). He also gives us a global outlook on the alternate history as well. We see the CSA bomb Japan on Dec.7th 1941, get involved in apartheid in Central America and even become allies with Hitler (!), even though they disagree with his extermination of Jews. (They call it a “waste of human livestock”!)
CSA: The Confederate States of America is involving for most of its running time but it starts to lose its way about an hour into the film when something of an actual “plot” emerges concerning a presidential nominee who may or may not have some African in his lineage. Still, the flick is wholly recommended, if only for the incredible Home Shopping Network take-off, The Slave Shopping Network!