Thursday, April 27, 2006


Last weekend I watched the movie The Confederate States of America, which is an alternative history mockumentary speculating what would happen if the Confederacy won the Civil War. Initially I went into the movie with a lot of curiosity. The subject seemed ripe for satire.

My reaction has been mixed. The interviews and re-edited stock footage is genius, and genuinely gives the viewer a sense that they are watching a real documentary. Making the documentary controversial and speculative also creates a veneer of authenticity.

One of the major problems with the film is that much of the new material falls flat. The commercials that are shown during the "documentary" are way too over the top. The fake plays and movie clips also have a stilted and amateur feeling to them.

Plus, suggesting that the timeline and historical figures would remain similar is just sloppy moviemaking. The filmmakers took the time to invent new white leaders of the country but relied on prominent black leaders. As much as I enjoy their works, Richard Wright and Martin Luther King Jr. probably would not have lived had slavery been allowed to continue into the 20th century. You mess with one thing in time, it effects everything else.

I do really like how C.S.A. seems to have opened debate up on IMDB. Any good historical film should do that. People's responses are passionate and eloquent. Of course, the one provocative idea the movie tries to forward, that the U.S.A. really isn't all the different than the C.S.A., is so awkward that it's placed only in the closing minutes of the film. It felt tacked on and clumsy, primarily considering that using commercial icons to assess a cultures' value is a weak argument.

Essentially my thought is that the idea behind C.S.A. is brilliant, but the film is poorly executed.

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