The racist reviews are in, and C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America is on its way to becoming the white-guilt hit of the season. "[C.S.A.] looks to me like more abhorrent anti-white agitprop," says Axeman of the popular pro-white Web site Stormfront.org. "It looks incredibly stupid," raves Stormfront's Niveskj.
So there you have it, folks. If you're a racist scumbag, C.S.A. blows chunks.
If, however, you're not a racist scumbag, Kansas University professor Kevin Willmott's satirical, Ken Burns-style mockumentary, which looks at what life in the 20th century might have been like had the South won the Civil War, is sure to fascinate. It's an irreverent film that mines shocking situations and images for comic gold and shines fresh light through the dirty windows of racism in America.
"The South didn't change after the Civil War," Willmott said during a recent appearance in Memphis, explaining why his alternative history brings us to a time and place that is virtually indistinguishable from modern America. "It was the North that changed. It's easy to blame the South, but racism isn't a Southern thing. It's an American thing. It wasn't Brown v. Mississippi [Board of Education], and the worst place Dr. King went wasn't Memphis or Birmingham. It was Chicago."
It's the filmmaker's sense that racism -- in all its naked awfulness -- was actually the salve that helped a divided union heal its war wounds. "It's like when two old friends date the same girl," he says. "They can't be friends while they are both dating her, but once she's gone, they can hang out together and say, 'You know, that girl was nothing but a bitch.'"
In C.S.A., Abraham Lincoln, fearing for his life, falls to his knees, points to his soot-blackened face, and swears to his Confederate captors that he's nothing but a poor ol' darkie. During the period of western expansion, the government exercises eminent domain and gifts Asian workers to the railroad companies they work for. The U.S. admonishes Hitler for his wasteful desire to exterminate perfectly good livestock but agrees not to interfere with the Fuhrer's European adventures. The Stars and Bars flies over the moon, while thoroughly modern couples take a no-worries approach to their swinging slave-holding lifestyle thanks to a technological marvel called the Shackle.
These staged images from Willmott's alternative reality mesh with a well-chosen and artfully arranged selection of real documentary footage to tell the story of a powerful but isolated empire of slaveholders and Christian martyrs, with nary an ally to be found. C.S.A. is a bitter pill that goes down like candy.
C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America
Opening Friday, October 7th