C.S.A.: Confederate States of America
Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”
I get the impression that Kevin Willmott is a glass-half-empty kind of guy. He has written and directed this clever fake documentary about how American history would have gone differently had the South won the Civil War, presenting a society where all non-whites are slaves and oppression dominates pop culture and America sees itself as superior to the rest of the world. According to the supplemental interviews on the DVD, his goal is to point out that this is the way America really is today, that we only pretend we've left behind the atrocities of the Confederacy but they persist in our culture. Me, I'm a glass-half-full person: Sure there are vestiges of slave culture in a few name brands today and we should continue eradicating them, but we've made tremendous progress and this alternate history demonstrates to me just how different we have become. For one thing, a black man like Willmott couldn't have dreamed of making a political statement like this without a sea change in social and physical freedoms.
As for the film, it's one inspired invention after another, with political parody like Americans demanding that the Canadian government pays them "slavery reparations" for all the escaped slaves who gained amnesty there after the war, or cultural parody like a fake commercial for Runaways, a gritty COPS-like TV series that profiles law enforcement that violently captures fleeing slaves. Some of it makes you laugh at the audacity of the jokes, and some of it is disquieting enough to inspire moody reflection, but there's almost nothing boring about it. It's an important and funny film that I recommend to every American, whether they're inclined to see our nation's social progess as half-finished or half-unfinished.
Erik Bates: Willmott is a professor here at KU.
Just thought I'd throw in that bit of trivia. − December 3, 2006 more by Erik
Scott Hardie: Re-reading this old review because the movie just came up in a TC discussion, I see how much my opinion has shifted. I still think highly of the film, but I side much more with Willmott's point of view now. I can't find it today, but a few years ago I came across a study about how black and white Americans perceived racial progress differently, and it's pretty much all right there in my writing above: White Americans tend to focus on how much progress has been made in eradicating the injustice of the past, blinding them to the many problems that still persist, while black Americans tend to focus on how much injustice and inequality remain. Willmott's film was eye-opening for me, and I hope (despite the odds of a decade-old indie mockumentary being discovered) that it can seen and appreciated by more white audiences. YouTube has the entire film. − August 2, 2017 more by Scott