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on August 20, 2009
Folks here trying to point out inaccuracies in the alternate history that unfolds when the CSA wins the Civil War are missing the point. Any chaos theoretician will tell you that a slight change to a system will result in massive change years later--in the "real" CSA there would probably never be a war with Japan, or the Nixon/Kennedy debate, etc. So what! A true examination of alternate history this is not, but I'm a hard-core history buff, and I was extremely entertained by this piece. It's a hoot to see footage of the Berlin Wall going up, used to illustrate the "Cotton Wall" between the US and Canada!

This was meant as a very biting satire of American culture, race, and slavery. It succeeds on that level. The only, and minor, complaint I have is that the low budget of this highly ambitious production occasionally spoils its "reality."

Also, some folks here presume this is some sort of Spike Lee production, which is not the case. Lee was asked to put his name on it as a "presented by" for marketing purposes, a seal of approval thing, much like Tarentino has his name on some Chinese action films. This piece is entirely Kevin Willmott's baby, he's a professor in the Film Studies Department of Kansas University.
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on May 1, 2014
Great social commentary, although, a bit scary. Just the thought that we could have slipped into this direction, however unlikely that was. The commercial bits are by far the best- creative, sarcastic, very well done.
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on April 26, 2014
One can argue with the specific course of any alternative history, but the film's basic premise - that slavery would have spread if the Confederacy had won the Civil War - is unarguable. The Confederate Constitution explicitly protected the institution of slavery:

Article I Section 9(4)
No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

Article IV Section 2(1)
The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.

It also ensured the spread of slavery into new territories:

Article IV Section 3(3)
The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several states; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government: and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories, shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the states or territories of the Confederate states.

This proves that anyone who claims that the Civil War was not, at its core, about slavery, is a liar and a fraud. The entire economy of the South was dependent on slavery. The spark for secession was Lincoln's intention to prohibit both slavery and black settlement in the new western territories, with the inevitable outcome that poor southern whites would have emigrated, leaving the plantation owners alone with no protection from a slave rebellion. The "Bleeding Kansas" controversy demonstrated the deep conflict over whether slavery would be allowed in the new western states.

How all of this would have played out given a Confederate victory is pure speculation, and the filmmakers, to underscore their point, assume the most extreme outcome, where slavery ultimately spreads worldwide. Its presentation in the form of a documentary intended to aquaint foreign viewers with an essential episode in American history allows the film to give clear, simple explanations that American (Confederate?) viewers presumably would have been well aware of.

I was initially put off by the apparent outrageousness of the "commercials," supposedly for products only available in the alternate reality of the film's world, until the one for "Coon Chicken," which I was already familiar with, the logo having been used by a character on the HBO series Six Feet Under for an art project. People complain about political correctness, but there's something to be said for not deliberately going out of your way to insult an entire race. The real lesson of "CSA" is not simply that it could have been our fate, but that only for a few fortuitous circumstances, it almost was.
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on August 14, 2014
As a fan of all kinds of alternate history, I found this to be a fine and interesting take on a popular subject--the South winning the Civil War.

This movie takes the form of a British documentary, covering the evolution of the Confederate States of America after the South won. Slavery of course plays a huge part of the new nation and this is covered quite matter-of-factly throughout and I found myself amazed at how well some historical incidents were tweaked slightly to fit this narrative. The consequences of a slave-holding nation on the rest of the Americas was in particular explored, with some slightly different consequences for WW-I and WW-II as a result. I found myself quite riveted throughout and the time spent watching (it's only 89 minutes long) pretty much flew by. The production overall was solid and very much felt like a documentary might.

The primary reason I can't give this five stars is because, frankly, it focused on slavery a bit too MUCH. Yes that was a critical and important part of the Civil War, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more focus on the CSA's interaction with the rest of the world, scientific advancements, etc. While this is all touched upon throughout the focus keeps coming back to the impact of slavery with some interestingly different electorial outcomes towards the end.

Recommended for any fan of somewhat *different* alternate history.
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on January 11, 2015
Very funny fictional account of history if the south has won the civil war. The thing I found interesting is that some of the "fake" commercials were actually real. They made it like a real biography with commercials.
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on November 7, 2014
Very, very strange!! Truly glad the South did not win the Civil War if this is the reality of what could have happened. Totlly politically incorrect, even vulgar in parts, but most thought provoking. The creativity in making the film is wonderful even if the visuals are somewhat disgusting. How they were able to get the various actors and actresses to play the roles must have been most interesting. Simply, thank goodness we are USA and not CSA. All this from one who was raised by a Southern minded father that I never understood. So glad the beliefs of the CSA are not the doctrine of the USA. Truly a movie to make you think while it makes you very uncomfortable.
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on November 24, 2014
The movie's underlying premises and arguments revealed the sub-strata of racism, jingoism, and self-proclaimed exceptionalism that swirls just below our country's slogans and rhetoric. "CSA" does force the viewer to reflect on disturbing tendencies that have been part of America's history since its first settlement. That being said it is a heavy-handed and very politically incorrect satire that offended many other reviewers and becomes very tedious toward the latter parts of the movie. "It is what it is" so just accept its nature.

The individual sketches that make up the format of the movie lack continuity and disturb the flow of the narration.
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VINE VOICEon September 15, 2009
"CSA" takes the format of the broadcast of a faux British documentary about the history of slavery in the CS after the War of Northern Aggression. It's punctuated with commercials that suggest what life would be like in a society that has thoroughly integrated slavery into its basic structure.

Contrary to what some reviewers claim, the documentary is a coherent, well-worked-out speculative history of what might have happened if the South had won. Some of it is based on what the South did, or wanted to do (the invasion and subjugation of South America, for example); most of the rest seems plausible, if only in terms of "human nature".

Several reviewers correctly pointed out that all the South wanted was the right to continue to spread slavery to states entering the Union, and that it had no /intention/ of conquering the North. This overlooks the fact that the only way it could have had what it wanted was by overthrowing the US government and seizing power. The South /did/ invade the North, and had it seized Washington, it's unlikely it would have simply walked away from the opportunity to take control. Would you?

If you're expecting an SNL or MAD TV sketch, you'll be disappointed. Though there are slap-your-knee/laugh-out-loud moments, the subject matter and its basically serious presentation prevent most of it from being amusing.

Highly recommended, if you have the stomach for this sort of thing.
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VINE VOICEon August 1, 2014
"CSA: The Confederate States of America" is far from the first project to explore the idea of what might have happened had the Confederacy won the American Civil War. Writer/director Kevin Willmott, a film professor at the University of Kansas, presents his film as a British documentary being shown on Confederate television tracing the history of the nation. The turning point for the Confederacy comes when Judah Benjamin, the Confederate Secretary of State, convinces England and France to contribute troops. The Confederacy is triumphant at the Battle of Gettysburg, Grant surrenders to Lee, Jefferson Davis annexes the U.S. and the Confederacy runs roughshod over the Union, destroying New York and Boston. Abraham Lincoln is captured in blackface trying to escape to Canada and watches from his Virginia prison cell window as Harriet Tubman is executed for war crimes (he is eventually pardoned by Davis and is exiled to Montreal, dying in 1905). Davis gets the idea for a tax on northerners that can be avoided if slaves are purchased, and in the ensuing decades the CSA conquers Central and South America, revs up international slave trade with the help of African leaders, enslaves Native Americans and Asians, and supports Hitler during World War Two. In the later part of the twentieth century, however, the CSA is isolated and uncultured, its only ally South Africa. Throughout the film the Fauntroy family--think a Confederate version of the Kennedys--are heavily involved in CSA politics, the current representative being John Ambrose Fauntroy V, a senator and 2002 presidential candidate.

What got people talking about the film are the commercials. Some of them are for products and places that actually existed, like Gold Dust Twins washing powder and Coon Chicken Inn restaurants. Others are just over the top, like the ad for Contrari, a drug to keep slaves cheerful and docile, and a "Cops" take-off called "Runaway" about the "CBI" hunting fugitive slaves. Every single one, though focuses heavily on either poking fun at slaves or controlling them. As can be read on other reviews here, "CSA" repeatedly hammers the idea that slavery was the driving force behind the war. As also can be read, that idea still sparks lively debate one hundred and fifty years later. I will add here that Kevin Willmott is African-American, so it's understandable why he would focus on that.

There were many instances while I was watching the film when it was hard for me to tell if it meant to be a straightforward documentary-style film, or meant to be satire. A lot of the dialogue is forced, particularly in scenes meant to show events happening in real time. Willmott uses a lot of actual footage, a lot altered to reflect a Confederate flag instead of an American one, a "C" photoshopped where a "U" would be in "USA." Sometimes the alterations are clever, sometimes they're glaringly bad. A film like this has to make the viewer suspend disbelief, but unfortunately there are enough stumbles to make that difficult.

"CSA" isn't a bad film. For the most part it's imaginative, with many scenes that will make you think, some that will make you chuckle. But it could have been a lot better with just a little more attention to detail. You probably won't like the film if you believe that the Civil War was fought over states' rights rather than slavery. If you're just interested in alternate history, it's interesting to watch.
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on April 29, 2014
It was an eye opener. Quite offensive, as it should have been, but informative. Makes you very, very grateful that the North won the war especially if you are African American.
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