Kevin Willmott's CSA: The Confederate States of America, an absurdist alternative history of the United States told in the form of a British TV documentary with commercial breaks, is the first great American film of the year—a work so original that all the usual labels slide right off. The word "mockumentary" doesn't begin to do it justice. CSA is fiction, nonfiction and meta-fiction, and sometimes film history and film criticism as well. It is academic and streetwise, sketch-comedy wacky and coldly deliberative, kaleidoscopic and controlled. It's like Jean-Luc Godard directing a screenplay by Dave Chappelle. It succeeds simultaneously as a comedy, a historical epic, an experimental feature, a send-up of PBS-cable documentary clichés, a dense and intricate work of speculative fiction, an inquiry into the terrifying arbitrariness of human events, a primer in how to achieve brilliance on a budget of nickels and dimes and a film editing achievement (by Sean Blake and David Bramley) in the same weight-class as Zelig, JFK and Fahrenheit 9/11, to name just three obvious stylistic influences. It's a multitiered wedding cake of a movie.
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