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Film review: Fake documentary is too serious, dry

'CSA' looks at history as if South had won Civil War

Published: Friday, March 31 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

CSA: THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA — ** — Larry Peterson, Rupert Pate, Evamarii Johnson; not rated, probable PG-13 (racial epithets, violence, brief drugs).

"CSA: The Confederate States of America" plays out like a faux-documentary done for the British Broadcasting Corporation, complete with fake television ads for fictional products and businesses, as well as film spoofs and a "Cops"-style reality show.

Oddly, it's done more straightforward, more straight-faced than you'd expect from that description. In fact, several parts of the film are very serious — too serious — despite the fact that they have a certain zaniness to them.

But the filmmakers would have been better off going the full-on "mockumentary" route, in the manner of Christopher Guest's miles-better "Best in Show" and "Waiting for Guffman," which managed to score points while still making audiences laugh.

"CSA" imagines a world in which the Confederate Army won the Civil War and slavery was not outlawed. And the film — well, the alleged "uncensored" documentary — looks at American history from that point forward.

Included are examinations of how such a thing might have affected this country's status as a world power. And it also follows John Ambrose Fauntroy V (Larry Peterson), a racist politician who's beginning a presidential campaign.

Writer-director Kevin Wilmott is also a playwright and professor of film studies at the University of Kansas, which may explain why the film seems so dry and academic. It's as if, in trying to emulate the style of stuffy documentarian Ken Burns, Wilmott made something that actually makes Burns' films seem livelier.

"CSA: The Confederate States of America" is not rated but would probably receive a PG-13 for use of racial epithets and a few ethnic slurs, scenes of wartime violence (and other disturbing imagery), and some brief drug content (a prescription-drug commercial spoof). Running time: 89 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com