C.S.A. Confederate States of America

February, 2006, Comedy

C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America

Who says nothing good, (besides Toto) ever came out of Kansas? Kevin Willmott, Professor of Film at The University of Kansas in bucolic Lawrence, delivered this satiric examination of what this country might look like had The Confederacy won The Civil War. The results are thought-provoking, but never pretty. 

Working with a group of unknown, (and largely self-conscious) actors and the most miniscule of budgets, the director fashions a mock documentary in the tradition of Ken Burns' analysis of the Civil War, complete with still photos of real players intermixed with snippets of conversation from a bogus historian who baldly justifies the continuation of slavery as a noble and necessary institution. After Lincoln flees to Canada to die in bitter isolation, The Confederacy invades and conquers all of the Caribbean and South America, forges an alliance with Hitler in W.W. II on the basis of "racial purity" and sees America’s most creative citizens flee across our northern border to flourish in a more open political environment. Exquisitely complicated racial anti-miscegenation laws are enacted, (bearing an eerie similarity to those employed by the apartheid government of South Africa) and in the end, it takes assassination to suggest that the wheels just might be falling off the nation's racial choices. All this is interspersed with faux commercials which jolt with their explicit racism…until the final credits demonstrate just how painfully real they actually are.

Willmott delivers this poke in the ribs on a budget so obviously limited that the results are often painfully amateurish while the conceit of his idea is hard to sustain over the film's 80 minute running time. The result is a decidedly uneven mix of intriguing "what-ifs" and repetitious riffs on a theme both too broad and simplistic to bear the weight of sustained interest. C.S.A. provides an interesting premise supported by a few bursts of genuine insight, which are wrapped in too much fluff to merit more than intermittent praise. 

The verdict? Give the professor an A+ for effort, but a C- minus for execution, largely attributed to his extremely limited budget.    

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