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Film Catalog » Subject Areas » American Studies » Confederacy Theory

Confederacy Theory

Confederacy Theory - Image Produced by Ryan Deussing.
56 min. Color. 2002.
Available as: VHS and DVD
Captioned: No
Catalog #: 0112
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Sale Price: $295.00 Buy VHS Buy DVD

This powerful and thought-provoking documentary explores the complexities of a controversy steeped in American history and racial divisiveness: the debate over the Confederate flag in South Carolina, the last state to fly the flag on its capitol. Using never-before-seen archival footage and exclusive interviews with politicians, pundits, activists, and scholars, "Confederacy Theory" traces the impact of the Confederate emblem on Southern culture, history, and identity -- from the Civil War to the front lines of a modern-day secessionist movement.

Although the Civil War ended long ago, across the American South this century-old defeat holds a prominent place in the popular psyche, to the point that talk of the "war between the states" often peppers daily conversation. Now a contemporary cultural war has erupted over the meaning and use of the Confederate battle flag, which many see as a racist symbol celebrating the Southern defense of slavery during the Civil War and Southern resistance to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The flag's defenders, meanwhile, cling to the notion of a Southern "lost cause" and in many respects echo the resentments of their Confederate ancestors. Today this heated controversy has become one of the most contentious issues in the South since desegregation.

With its engaging attention to detail and its deft, even-handed treatment of its thorny subject matter, "Confederacy Theory" will spark analysis and discussion in a wide variety of courses in sociology and popular culture, social psychology, American history and studies, and African-American studies. It was produced by Ryan Deussing.


"A subtle, intelligent and provocative exploration of the rise of the contemporary neo-Confederate movement. Simply by letting its subjects speak for themselves, the film makes the racial animus that drives many flag supporters clear -- but without issuing any blanket condemnations of white Southerners interested in their past. This is the first film to seriously examine an important phenomenon that should concern all Americans. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the state of our nation." -- Mark Potok, Southern Poverty Law Center

"I found this excellent film to be a uniquely valuable exploration of how a powerful symbol, in this case the Confederate Battle Flag, can 'mean' different things and evoke dramatically different emotions in people who have lived side by side for generations but belong to different racial or ethnic groups. A strength is that the viewer can identify, however uneasily, with both proponents and opponents of the flag because the film presents them as everyday humans caught up in the passion of the battle. In undergraduate classrooms, at least in a Minnesota liberal arts college, the film stimulates illuminating conversations about individual and group identities and the responsibility groups in a multicultural society have to understanding, respecting, and responding to the meanings and evaluations that other groups attribute to their words, symbols, and actions." -- Roxane Harvey Gudeman, Adjunct Prof. of Psychology, Macalester College

"A surprisingly even-handed portrait, not only of a pivotal moment in the political history of South Carolina, but of a moment of crisis in the South's understanding of itself." -- Eddy Von Mueller, Film Critic, Atlanta, Georgia


"Best Documentary," Atlanta Film & Video Festival
American Library Association "Notable Video for Adults 2003" Award
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site honoree
Nashville Film Festival honoree
Dallas Video Festival honoree
Rhode Island Film Festival honoree
PBS National Broadcasts, 2001-2002 Premiere Episode of "Independent Lens"



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