You might cheer for Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” and its revision of Southern history, but the mockumentary, “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America,” alters history in a way that’s meant to horrify. Fans of comic books have been treated to many alternative timelines and its a common conceit in science fiction so why not a mockumentary about an alternative America, one where the Confederate Army under President Jefferson Davis, won the American Civil War? Presented as a British documentary, “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America” comes complete with commercials for products, TV shows and political campaigns between a historical analysis of the slave-holding nation C.S.A.
Written and directed by Kevin Willmott, a professor of film at the University of Kansas, this movie begins with a slight disclaimer: “If you’re going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh; otherwise, they’ll kill you. –George Bernard Shaw”
We first see a sunny commercial about the father is the “master of the house” whose family is blonde and white, but they and their property must be protected. That’s why they turn to Confederate Family Insurance, “protecting people and their property for 100 years” and the property is clearly the house and the black slave.
There’s also an official disclaimer which cautions that this program is of foreign origin (British Broadcasting Service) and doesn’t reflect the views of the network making the broadcast and we’re warned that this documentary is controversial. Like any good documentary there are talking heads: a white historian of Confederate history named Sherman Hoyle (Rupert Pate) and a Canadian historian from the University of Montreal who is of African descent named Patricia Johnson (Evamarii Johnson).
Historically speaking, seven states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas) formed the permanent federal government of Confederate States of America in 1861 by signing the Confederate Constitution in Montgomery, Alabama. Four other states, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina, would join them. And there were be more land gained but eventually lost when the Confederate Army surrendered.
Willmont, who was reportedly inspired by Ken Burns’ series on the Civil War, builds up his case with facts. A C.S. Department of Education commercial from 1958 explains “Why We Fought” but also why the Confederates would have won: Cotton was king and it was the main export of the U.S.A. Without the Southern states, the North was without a profitable product. Further, the Secretary of State in this alternative history was able to promote the cause of state rights and the rights of owning personal property along with cotton to convince France and Great Britain to support the Confederate cause.
With Europe entering the American Civil War, the Union troops were easily defeated. President Abraham Lincoln was forced to turn to Harriet Tubman who disguised Lincoln in blackface, telling him, “We’re both niggers now, Mr. President.” Tubman is hanged; Lincoln serves a brief term in prison and is pardoned. He died in 1905 in Canada, a poor and bitter man who feels that the abolitionists were right; they always “knew it was about the negro.”
Instead of D.W. Griffith making the 1915 silent drama “The Birth of a Nation” which was based on the novel and play, “The Clansman,” he makes a movie called “The Hunt for Dishonest Abe.” Yet Canada becomes the power behind popular culture–the Jewish, black and female artists leave the C.S.A. for more creative freedom and that includes Elvis Presley.
The people who need to see this probably won’t bother or won’t understand it. American popular culture owes so much to people of all races and from women as well as men. Can you imagine a world without Elvis, rock and roll? “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America” is a well-thought out mockumentary that may give you a George Bailey moment when you realize what a wonderful life we have because slavery ended with the American Civil War. “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America” is available for instant streaming on Netflix.