Director: Kevin Willmott
Starring: Evamarii Johnson, Rupert Pate, Larry J. Peterson
CSA: The Confederate States of America is a mildy amusing but ultimately tiring faux-documentary about the history of the United States. The gimmick, of course, is that in this alternate universe, the South won the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was driven into exile to die a lonely, bitter man, and blacks have remained in oppression and servitude ever since. Unfortunately, this rich and interesting premise is simply presented over and over again without expansion or exploration. It plays like one of those mildly amusing Saturday Night Live sketches that goes on far too long–the only difference being that those sketches only seem to last an hour-and-a-half.
The film loosely follows the intertwining stories of an escaped slave named Big Sam and a hotshot politician who may or may not have unseemly ties to the black underground. These two plots serve to string the film together but that’s about it. While real documentaries have evolved into an art form that can powerfully connect us to their subjects, this mockumentary holds it’s characters at the mercy of the conceit, and never gives the audience a character to latch on to.
The film’s conceit is that of a television special, so the narrative is routinely interrupted by “commercial breaks” advertising offensive products like Darky Toothpaste, Niggerhair Cigarettes and the Slave Shopping Network. Some of these spots are obliquely amusing, but even more shocking is the revelation (in the closing credits) that some of the most offensive products are not fictitious creations, but real products once sold in America.
Ultimately, CSA is a wasted opportunity. Could’ve been fascinating to see a more complex exploration of the subject, but I’ll be interested to see Willmott’s next film. Perhaps he’ll learn from his mistakes.