No, it's not "C.S.I." "C.S.A." is a moderately interesting mock-documentary that takes a look at what would have happened had the South won the civil war. The picture opens with a commercial for "Confederate Family Insurance" and introduces the film by presenting it as a shocking work that's only now being presented on American television in its "uncensored" format.
The picture itself is done in the style of a Ken Burns documentary, complete with "archive footage" and interviews with "historians". There's even fake television breaks with commericals with very offensive stereotypes similar to the ones contained in the "ad" that opens the picture. While these products seem like spoofs, the depressing fact - as the end of the picture informs us - is that some of these "products" were real and available not that long ago.
The documentary looks at the history of America, from the defeat of the Union at Gettysburg (thanks to Europe and France deciding to take the side of the South) to the present. Slavery was never outlawed ("C.O.P.S." in this alternate reality is called "Runway", instead), and Abraham Lincoln was exiled to Canada, where he's joined by Emerson, Thoreau, Twain and others. Rock N'Roll comes from the more artistic Canada (who the C.S.A. eventually builds a wall to separate itself from), instead. The C.S.A. takes a pre-emptive strike against Japan, remains neutral to Hitler and takes over South America.
The picture is surprisingly accurate in its portrayal of the usual PBS-style documentary format, which draws you in and yet, at the same time, remains pretty dry. Still, despite a fairly straightforward presentation, director Kevin Willmott achives more than one would expect from a film that was apparently done on a micro budget. The actors aren't terrific, but they work reasonably well playing the kind of scholars you'd see on this kind of program. The manipulation of archive footage is also rather impressive.
Although its take an alternative reality will likely be debated, Willmott's provocative film is an attempt to provoke discussion about racial issues and instances of racism that are still present today.
VIDEO: "CSA" is presented by Genius Products in the film's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The low-budget production and use of archive footage does result in the picture having varied visual quality, but the DVD presentation offers up image quality that's probably about as good as the film is going to look. Sharpness and detail are generally respectable during the interview segments and although there are certainly instances of wear during some of the archive footage, the picture is generally pretty clean. No pixelation or edge enhancement is seen and colors appeared accurately presented.
SOUND: The film's stereo soundtrack presented documentary-style audio, with little activity aside from dialogue, which sounded clear.
EXTRAS: Commentary from director Kevin Willmott and producer Rick Cowan, along with an extra commentary from Willmott, "Reality of the Fiction" documentary, deleted scenes and "Making Of".
Final Thoughts: Although its take an alternative reality will likely be debated, Willmott's provocative film is an attempt to provoke discussion about racial issues and instances of racism that are still present today. The DVD offers good audio/video quality and a very nice helping of extra features. Definitely worth a rental for those interested.
The Film B-