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C.S.A. - The Confederate States Of America
cast: Larry Peterson, Charles Frank, Rupert Pate, Evamarii Johnson, and Greg Hurd

writer and director: Kevin Wilmott

89 minutes (15) 2004
Tartan DVD Region 2 retail
[released 13 November]

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
The best alternate history stems from the simplest questions. What if the Russians had landed on the moon first? What if JFK had lived? What if the Confederacy had won the civil war? This last one forms the basis for Kevin Wilmott's massively impressive faux documentary.

Opening with an advert for 'Confederate Life Insurance, for you and your property' which shows a smiling family and their equally photogenic houseboy, the film perfectly balances moral outrage with an extremely intelligent and well thought out approach to what exactly a Confederate States of America would be like. Set an indeterminate time in the future, the film is set up as a documentary made by a British film crew which has been deemed too explosive for American TV until now.

At first glance, it's difficult to see why. Wilmott's script sees the film crew establish the history of the CSA, from their victory in the war to the arrest of Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman of the 'underground railroad' (impressively and repugnantly portrayed in a beat perfect copy of D.W. Griffiths' film style). From there, it follows the CSA's annexing of much of South America, their role in the Second World War and the growing hostilities with a liberal Canada. Recognisable parts of history are tantalisingly dropped in, including the JFK and Nixon presidential debates and the iconic image of Neil Armstrong standing on the moon, a Confederate flag flying in the background.

However, the film really comes into its own when it deals with Senator John Fauntroy V (a wonderfully plausible Larry Peterson). The democratic presidential nominee, Fauntroy comes from a family central to the CSA's history and Peterson does a wonderful job of portraying the banal, plausible face of this repellent society. The film's eventual reveal concerning Fauntroy may be a little obvious but in the hands of Peterson it works beautifully.

C.S.A. is interspersed with adverts for colossally racist products, so offensive that they appear to be played for comic relief. Its these adverts though, that provide the film with its final punch. Almost all of them, the closing credits reveal, are real and, in some cases, were still in existence well into the 20th century.

C.S.A. is a uniquely intelligent, quietly angry film that deserves your attention. Bleak, unsettling, and with a deeply fatalistic sense of humour its a deeply involving and unusual piece of cinema. Highly recommended.
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