C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America
After a few minutes of C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, you may wonder how long the exercise can sustain itself. Then it should occur to you that, after two centuries of the United States of America, the exercise of racism has proven plenty self-sustaining. Thus it becomes easy, if uncomfortable, to appreciate how thoroughly writer-director Kevin Willmott’s mockumentary considers what our nation might be like had the Confederacy emerged victorious from the so-called war of Northern aggression.
In Willmott’s indignantly funny scenario, the South enlisted military aid from France and Britain by reframing the war as a battle for the ever-cherished American freedom to own private property. Reconstruction meant tax rebates for slave ownership in the battered North. A slave-trade stimulus package repaired the Great Depression. And history continued apace, from the Confederate States’ imperial reach into South America to its fond diplomatic rapport with Hitler’s Germany—perturbed only by a gentle admonishment against genocide on the grounds that it’s wrong “to waste human livestock.” Later followed the assassination of abolitionist Republican President Kennedy, the “cotton curtain” along the Canadian border, the grim period of isolationism in which “only the nation of South Africa remained a loyal ally,” and the scandals over mixed-race ancestries of current office-seekers.
Willmott’s presentation suffers some creakiness, but it’s hardly a one-note gag. C.S.A. breaks fertile ground between the effetely pleading political missives now en vogue among documentarists and the earnest Ken Burns-ian episodes of self-satisfaction this movie so ruthlessly sends up. If it sometimes seems to lack imagination, that may be because Willmott prefers to subordinate his flights of fancy to potent matters of fact. For instance, the only thing more jaw-dropping than his phony commercials for products like Sambo Axle Grease and Darky Toothpaste is the revelation that he didn’t make those products up.