August 11, 2006

C.S.A. - the movie

If you're reading this blog, you want to buy or rent Kevin Wilmott's C.S.A. It's not plausible—the Confederacy wanted to secede, not to conquer, which is why purists of language say their war wasn't a civil war, but a war of secession, like the American Revolution. But the film's not meant to be plausible: it's a thoughtful and entertaining meditation on race in the USA. It's especially appropriate on TV, because it's designed as a broadcast from a parallel Earth.

It suckered me in by noting the economics of slavery at the beginning: slaves weren't cheap, a fact missed by those who think the Civil War wasn't a contest over wealth. Its take on Abraham Lincoln is not naive. (Yes, I would've liked a mention of Lincoln's support in 1861 for the proposed 13th amendment to make slavery permanent, but he does cite this from Lincoln's 1862 letter to Horace Greeley: "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it."

My favorite bits were the commercials and clips from that world's popular culture. There's a great piece from a Broaday musical, and a nice bit of alternate D.W. Griffith. My main quibble is that it's a low-budget effort, and sometimes that shows. I would've liked a one-hour version rather than a 90 minute one, but it doesn't drag; it just limps occasionally.

Ultimately, it's not about the Confederacy or the Civil War. It's about what happened after. Anyone interested in race and culture should give it a look.