Tuesday, 9 March 2010

CSA : The Confederate States of America

I've recently been taking advantage of Amazon's special offers on boxsets on documentaries for my studies, (the world at war, Russian Revolution in Colour etc.) and while I was at it decided to get two "Alternative history" films one was It Happened Here a tale about Britain under the Nazi's, and Spike Lee's 2004 film CSA : The Confederate States of America a tale about what would have happened if the South had won the civil war.

"If you're going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you." George Bernard Shaw.

Now In the past I generally try to stay away from alt history, for a number of reasons which I'll only briefly go into here.

1) If its an academic text then it will probably have been written to deliberately provoke controversy to attract notoriety and profit.
2) There usually to convenient, most alt histories change very little especially in regards to technology e.g. what would happen if the aeroplane was developed earlier? but very really follow through with all that complex branching, e.g. if the plane became a weapon of war sooner then so would much more effective counter measures etc.

However the CSA isn't really meant to be taken seriously as a warning of how close we (America) came to Southern domination. Its more of a platform to chronicle the state of racism in America in the past and today with some exaggeration (see the vid below). Though its at its most damning when showing events in the CSA's history that happened exactly the same as they did in the real USA, the extermination of the Plains Natives or the "red skins" for example,or the use of popular novel's and plays to paint the opposite and losing side as noble and gallant but misguided in there idealism, while conveniently marginalising the role of the Blacks in the conflict, Gone with the Wind becomes Northern Wind for example.

The film also does something which is not usually acknowledged when the crime of slavery comes up for debate and study, the complicity of Black tribal leaders in the slave trade, in the CSA this continues well into the modern era and has a speech by "a Mombasa chieftain" to the International Slavery community basically thanking them for all the financial support and aid in exchange for being able to remove their own "inferior tribes" at the same time. This film criticises everyone who is complicit in racism and slavery rather then taking the easy way out and just laying it on the White Redneck southerners.

Its set up as a British documentary about the history of the CSA that after much controversy finally airs on a CSA channel, and its frequently interrupted by fake adverts for some very racist products (niggerhair cigarettes, Darkie's toothpaste, Coon Chicken Inn etc).Only to show at the end that most of them were sadly real products that were made and sold well after the Civil war and in US Northern states.

One thing I really used to hate about books and the like about discrimination is that they tended to be very one sided in depicting the white majority as the only force for driving wedges in between the community. I mean its fair to devout attention to it but to ignore inter-ethnic tensions within the migrant community makes analysis of racism pretty much pointless. I mean if we can learn one thing from the likes of Mr Guramit Singh and the BNP's decision to "open" membership to non whites is that people of all races creeds and colours can be absolute wankers.

So anyway thats my thoughts on this intriguing film, I'd say its well worth a look for fans of Satire.

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