With a satiric eye, Willmott uses "historians" and faked news footage to show the last 143 years of American history. We see Lincoln's exile to Canada, an early D.W. Griffith silent film depicting his capture, and clips from the 1955 thriller "I Married an Abolitionist" (abolitionists where the big boogeymen in the '50s, rather than Communists). A commercial advertises daily reruns of "Leave It to Beulah," about a sassy slave in a white household. Before the documentary begins, viewers are warned that, due to its controversial nature (it was made by anti-slavery Brits, after all), it may not be suitable "for children or servants."
Willmott's imagination about how history would have changed with a Southern victory is perceptive and sharp. The Confederacy actually did have plans to colonize Latin America, so Willmott uses that. The anti-Negro philosophies of the day, made law by the new Confederate States of America, evolve into anti-everything, putting the C.S.A. right in line with Hitler when he comes along.
Some of the faked stock footage and newsreels are remarkably well done, notably the aforementioned D.W. Griffith short, which is also raucously funny. But others are obviously low-budget and shoddily made, and few of the actors are convincing. One of the keys to success here is making this faux documentary and its accompanying TV commercials look legit, and much of the material just doesn't cut it.
Less significant issues such as "Dixie" being the national anthem are nonetheless disconcerting. Since the song was written by a former slave, it would not exist had slavery not been abolished. More serious is the supposition that the genocide against the Indians would have been carried out by the Southern cavalry, when it was exclusively a result of western expansion by the North.
"CSA" is best when inventing, not amending, history. The idea that Canada, by welcoming runaway slaves and pro-abolitionist refugees, would have become the birthplace of rock 'n' roll while the culture of the United States would have been limited to government propaganda, is only one of many hilarious what-ifs offered by this often remarkable film.
In fact, CSA makes a good case that the more religiously oriented South would've believed in Manifest Destiny even more fervently than the North did. In the movie, the South exercises this belief by invading and conquering Latin America. If you buy that, you must also buy that the CSA would've dominated America's Indians.
Other than the bit on the Indian Wars, CSA mentions Indians once more: when it shows two football teams named the Washington Indians and the New York Niggers. This is a brief but effective comment on the mascot issue. In the racist society of CSA, the team names and mascots are little different from ours. We don't mock blacks with mascots, but we still mock Indians.
It would be interesting to see a mockumentary of Jake Page's Apacheria, perhaps the best alternative history featuring American Indians. This movie would explore and elucidate many Anglo/Indian issues. Mr. Page, if you're reading this, let's talk.
Rob's rating of CSA: 7.5 of 10.