The Order of Myths Reviews
A clear presentation of two parallel Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama where line colors have been the only factor considered for traditional invitation lists of each coronation, debutant ballrooms and any kind of relation in that place, even up to 2007. And it's clear to me that not because the director Margaret Brown is white had privileged access to all locations and proper interviewees: she's is a Mobile socialite herself, which adds a inside look of the whole centennial segregated celebration.
Really interesting to see the intersections of race and class, especially the Jum Crow-like divisions of labor reproduced within the pre and post produciton of the festival. The tree metaphor of "roots' and lynching I found espeically interesting, as well as the history of the town and last slave ship to enter American harbors relationship with the woman crowned as Mardi Gras queen of 2007.
Living in the south, and not knowing much about Mardi Gras, I watched this documentary solely on the basis that it is set in Mobile, Alabama. It centers on two different Mardis Gras celebrations in the city, one put on by the Mobile Carnival Association (MCA) and the Mobile Area Carnival Commission (MACC), MCA being the white Mardi Gras commission, MACC being the black one.
The film talks about Mardi Gras, and its ties to Mobile, where the first Mardi Gras celebration took place in America, 15 years before New Orleans was even a city. Following this line of events, and the complex issue of race in the south, the documentary follows the progression of the season as the two commissions prepare to throw their annual Mardis Gras celebrations.
There is an interesting line drawn through history from the last known slave-importer in the US, to the young white girl that is to become Mobile's 2007 MCA queen, the line is also shown from the opposite side, where the same slave-importer brought the last ship of slaves into the US, only to burn the ship down with all the captures slaves aboard, to burn the "evidence" (meaning the slaves) and how that line of slaves escaped the boat and founded a run-down, poor section of town. The black queen also has ties to the same historical event, her ancestors came to America this way.
The film follows the two groups as they plan their parties, and try to wax philosophic throughout the film about the interaction between whites and blacks in the city. The white denziens, obviously ignorant in some cases, explain that the reason the Mardis Gras celebration remains the last vestige of segregation in America is because that's the way both races like it, it keeps the peace.
The black group, however, feels much differently, since they had to form their own committee to be part of the festivities. The film goes on to show the first social interactions between both queens and kings, when the black queen and king come to the coronation of the white king and queen, and are (sloppily) accepted and proudly presented as attending.
However, the two remain uncomfortable, and the alliance seems like it's for show if nothing else. However, the mood changes a bit when the white queen and king go to the black coronation ball, another first, and see that these people are just kids out trying to have fun much like they are.
Despite all of the talk throughout the film that will make you wince at the ignorance, in the end it shows that there is hope, the two races can bond, and that each generation is indeed taking a step forward from all that running their ancestors did so many years ago.
However, it's not all fun and happiness, feelings are hurt, and of course the white king has to open his ignorant mouth to spew pro-segregation philosophy, not even aware of the sound of his own ignorance.
A passionate, well made film, its power is derived from its timely editing, clear objectivity, and willingness to tackle a subject that still makes many people uncomfortable without shame or fear. Definitely one of the better documentaries in a while, it's a bit category specific, but the lesson is there for anyone who goes looking.