It's like Woody Allen's ZELIG blended in with the most memorable segments of Dave Chappelle's TV show on Comedy Central to make an intoxicating Molotov cocktail-like 90-minute mockumentary. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004. The title is C.S.A.: THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA. Before I tell you what it's about, let me give you a little film history. Let's look at GONE WITH THE WIND first. The 1939 Hollywood classic was made into stage musical in the 1970s. I kid you not.
That kind of history is lampooned in this mockumentary. The entire feature, commercials and TV station promos -- everything -- is done like a documentary airing on a TV station. The documentary is how America changed after the Confederate side won the Civil War. Historians speak, we see clips of history and old movies. That's the brilliance of this alternate history. If you're a serious fan of classic films, you should see D.W. Griffith's influential 1915 epic, THE BIRTH OF A NATION. I've seen it a couple of times. Technically, there are great production elements about this silent film. But Griffith's blatant racism in images of Black people sets my teeth on edge.
The version of Griffith's film in C.S.A.: CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA has such genius that it made me gasp. The DVD came out in the summer of 2006. I was working on Whoopi Goldberg's national radio show then. I saw the DVD. I raved about to her and I wanted to interview its African-American writer/director Kevin Willmott. At that time, he was a professor at the University of Kansas. I contacted him and gushed about how extraordinary his work was -- the concept, execution and all that writing. His keen knowledge of American and Hollywood film history. It's amazing.
In fact, I still do not understand how Quentin Tarantino won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for DJANGO UNCHAINED when he basically wrote a new twist on a character introduced and played by Franco Nero in a popular 1966 western called...DJANGO. Tarantino even gave Nero a cameo in his western. C.S.A.: THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA made seem a bit slow in spots in last half hour but you have to admit that, overall, it's original, smart, provocative and it makes a point. Willmott co-wrote the 2015 film CHI-RAQ with its director Spike Lee.