Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

In the past few weeks since the Charleston shooting, the Confederate Flag has been at the center of a heated national debate that rages on. Just an hour ago at the time of this article’s publication, the Confederate Flag was permanently removed from the South Carolina Capitol. Is the flag a symbol of slavery and racism, or simply a banner for Southern pride and good natured rebellion, as some say?

The Kansas City Star took these questions to Lawrence, KS-based filmmaker Kevin Willmott, who gracefully addressed the flag’s problems and challenges, as well as its place in popular culture. You can read that interview here. Willmott, an African-American filmmaker and KU Professor, has crafted several socially-minded films, most of them with race as a key theme, including Jayhawkers, Destination Planet Negro, and perhaps his most challenging work, the scathing mockumentary C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, a film that imagines what history would look like if the South has won the Civil War. It’s this film that we have selected for discussion this week.

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:
 And join us next week when the team tackles Black Snake Moan, perhaps the single sweetest film to also involve a nymphomaniac being chained to a radiator. It’s free to watch legally on Youtube as an offering of Paramount’s amazing free movie channel, “Paramount Vault”.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co!

Featured Guest

This week we’re delighted to have as a special guest David Sutera, a real life friend of mine and a man who is close to this film and its filmmakers, as you’ll hear him explain.

David (right) with co-editor Zachary Ingle.

After holding numerous jobs ranging from health inspector to stand-up comedian, high school chemistry teacher to dog track announcer, David M. Sutera’s career has converged into a sports media scholar, writer, and university professor of communications and media studies at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. David is currently in the latter stages of completing his PhD at the University of Kansas in Film and Media Studies. David is also an active filmmaker with an M.F.A. in Film Production from the University of Utah, and has produced several award-winning short films including American Ubiquity (2014), Amber Waves (2012), Glass Half Full (2009), Space Invaders (2007), Messages from the Burning Shrub (2004), and Fryday (2003). David has worked in the film industry as an actor and extra, appearing in movies such as Showgirls and The Craft, and in television programs such as Picket Fences, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and Beverly Hills 90210. In addition, David worked on the MTV reality program Bully Beatdown (2006) as personal assistant to Mark Burnett, and has worked as a camera assistant, correspondent, and editor for IndieWIRE magazine during the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. David has four publications through Rowman and Littlefield Publishers currently in distribution, including Vaudeville on the Diamond: Minor League Baseball in Today’s Entertainment World (2014), Sports Fans.

David Sutera:

After first seeing C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, I realized Kevin Willmott captured lightning in a bottle with this film. When I later had the chance to attend the University of Kansas’ Film and Media Studies program as a PhD student, and because of C.S.A., I jumped at the opportunity to work with Kevin Willmott as my primary faculty mentor. Over my six-year association with the program, I had the distinct pleasure and honor to work with both Kevin Willmott and [cinematographer] Matthew Jacobson on numerous projects.

While Kevin Willmott’s filmic oeuvre is impressive and touches on many pertinent issues, C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004) is the crown jewel in his body of work, and stands as one of the most innovative and culturally significant farcical documentary films in American cinematic history. Using archival footage, creative re-enactments, and a frame narrative structure, Willmott skillfully dovetails biting social commentary with intelligent humor in this cinematic fictional take on the Confederacy winning the American Civil War. The filmmaker delivers a provocative statement regarding the enduring cultural impact of the Civil War in American society, along with a trenchant view on the deep roots of racism in the United States. Through its highly entertaining and acerbic tone, the film unabashedly examines the dark underbelly of American racism as a thinly veiled yet pervasive element of contemporary U.S. society.

C.S.A. also operates as incisive satire on revisionist history regarding the causes behind the American Civil War, especially in light of the emotionally charged controversy over the Confederate flag. This film serves as a significant and accessible American cultural artifact in the ongoing debate surrounding racial inequality in the United States and will continue to do so for future generations. (@SuteraD)

The Team


In the tradition of stories like Harry Turtledove’s Guns of the South, the premise is straightforward… what if the South won the war?

If someone tells me they thought C.S.A. was better in concept than execution, I wouldn’t tell them they were wrong. However, the film is a good one and, moreover, an important one. It’s effective in doing what it sets out to do, which is to shed light on real racial issues through the use of parody. While the Confederate States of America is fictitious, the lines of where reality ends and alternate reality begins are blurry.

Some of the outlandish advertisements shown throughout the commercial breaks in the “documentary” are actually not too outlandish; many are based on real things once available in the USA. Furthermore, many attitudes expressed in the film are also expressed, if oft more subtlety, by white Americans today.

One of the most effective parts of the film is when the some slaves are interviewed. It becomes obvious that the words of the slaves were not their own. This hit hard, bringing to mind examples of words from black people that racists in modern America appropriate as proof that oppression no longer exists.

In short, C.S.A. is more important now than ever. (@thepaintedman)


The key with any mockumentary is that the jokes be played straight, which sadly only happens part of the time here. While everyone involved is committed to selling the idea that slavery is still alive and well in the 21st century, sometimes that commitment can border into SNL territory. It also might not help that once the initial shock at how far the filmmakers are willing to go, in terms of humor, wears off, there’s not much bite left in the second half of C.S.A..

It may not belong in the same canon as Christopher Guest’s films, yet there’s still plenty about C.S.A. that works just enough where you can’t help but at least admire it.

Probably one of the boldest mockumentaries ever attempted, C.S.A. has the guts to go for the jugular and make fun of an area of society which happens to be more controversial than ever today. In spite any shortcomings, C.S.A. encapsulates the overall beauty of independent film and the freedom it allows filmmakers (even if the film gets hampered by its low-budget trappings at times). After all, could you imagine a major studio greenlighting this? All in all, an amusing take on a horrific concept and a worthy addition to the mockumentary genre. (@frankfilmgeek)


Without a strong narrative through-line, or any real narrative center at all, C.S.A. is more of amusing concept than a wholly compelling film. It’s essentially the kind of dry, boring documentary you saw a million times in history class when teacher was too hungover to do any teaching, and while the filmmakers do a good job of replicating that feel, the feel they are replicating is fairly dry and repetitive, even with the often very funny/horrifying divergences (and similarities) to actual American history.

If there’s one aspect of the film that hits the target with alarming accuracy, it’s the fake commercials that are sprinkled throughout. What’s chilling about these commercials isn’t the products or the acting (both of which are hokey at best) but the way they co-opt racist imagery and ideas to be not disgusting emblems of a hopefully escaped past, but as still-relevant and highly-regarded cultural shorthand. When the Sambos and Mammies get brought out for the viewers’ ‘pleasure’, there’s genuine venom and shame, and the film could have used more of that potent kick. (@TheTrueBrendanF)


C.S.A. is almost two different films. The main narrative is the alternate history documentary, which is so much meatier than I ever expected, not merely offering a new fiction but interweaving real historical events and attitudes into an alternate timeline that feels like it could have happened, in which Lincoln is exiled, we ally with Nazi Germany, and slavery still exists as an economical institution with some modern updates to the formula. I was especially impressed that the film didn’t only comment on the black experience of racism and slavery, but on equality affecting all minority groups (Indians, Jews, and Asians, among others). It’s a dead-on aping of Ken Burns style documentary filmmaking.

The other aspect is the faux commercials which occasionally interrupt the “broadcast”. Some of these feel pretty wild and exaggerated, but I found their offensive levity a welcome respite of comic relief from the main program’s intentionally dry historical narration. Whereas the mockumentary’s satire is witty and subtle, these ads get right up in your face with it. During the credits, explanations are provided for the historical context of some of the fictional products, revealing that they’re not nearly as exaggerated as I would prefer to believe. (@VforVashaw)

There was a time when this was actually a real product!

Get it at Amazon:
 C.S.A.: The Confederate States Of America — [Instant]

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