CSA: The Confederate States of America

a film by Michael Willmott

Hidden somewhere between Michael Moore and Christopher Guest, Michael Willmott's mockumentary about the history of America if the south had won the Civil War ends up being a noble, if not ultimately failed, experiment in social and political satire.

With a sharpened tongue that falters nearly as often as it sticks, Willmott shows us what America may very well look like if slavery had never ended - replete with other inevitable atrocities such as women never attaining the vote, Native Americans, Hispanics, Chinese and Japanese also enslaved, Jews forced onto a reservation (Long Island) and a pact with Hitler. I must admit that the film does have certain on target realizations, especially considering the current socio-political climate of intolerance and unapologetic xenophobia, but too much of this otherwise conciliatory film is satiated with an amateur atmosphere that eventually drags down even this noblest of adventures.

Sure, alternate histories have always managed to intrigue - what would the world be like if Hitler was never born or if the Kennedys or Martin Luther King had not been assassinated - and here that intrigue is no less powerful, yet it seems just so implausible that the world would allow slavery to this extent (the entire western hemisphere save Canada) to continue into this supposed more enlightened age; and before you get started on the blatant racisms still rampant in the world today - as well as the many pockets of slavery still going strong throughout this "civilised" world - I have taken those into account before thrusting my implausibility concerns upon this film, and I still stand by the rationale that the rest of the world would not allow this to be the case - at least not on such the large scale that Willmott assumes. Of course this could all just be me being rather naive in my assumptions about the modern age, but I still stand by my naivety.

Full of enough interesting theories - "red" Canada as a haven for the more tuned-in set (Walt Whitman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Emerson, Thoreau, James Baldwin, Elvis Presley); the (very politicized and allusionatory) look at world domination of the Aryan race, including the annexation of all of South America - as well as a multitude of real life filler material (just try googling Darkie toothpaste or Niggerhair cigarettes to see how not-so-far-off this film just may be) to make the film a passable satire, but full of enough questions and rather amateur aesthetics involved with much of the production, to make the film of equal failure on par with its own successes.

Perhaps I am being a bit too harsh in my evaluation - a possible liberal-minded hesitation as with the films of Michael Moore (I agree with the vast majority of his political arguments but still find him a less than persuasive rabble rouser due to a lesser-than quality in my typically auteuristic viewpoint) - but nonetheless, even with the humanist connection, I must step away from Willmott's film with a rather bitterly unsatisfactory aftertaste of aesthetic wantonness; Although officially "presented by Spike Lee", and in obvious brotherhood with Lee's own racial satire, Bamboozled (a much cleverer film), Willmott's effort does indeed constitute a look - if not for its adeptness and/or dexterity, then for its (possibly) much needed Nostradamian red flag. [04/16/06]