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Order of Myths - DVD Review of The Order of Myths - 2008

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Order of Myths - DVD Review of The Order of Myths - 2008

Order Of Myths Poster Art

Cinema Guild

The Bottom Line

Mobile, Alabama, celebrated its first Mardi Gras in 1703, thirteen years before New Orleans was established. The tradition still continues with annual hoopla--but the 'mystic societies' and events they stage continue to be racially segregated.

The film, shot in 2007, the year in which Alabama officially apologized to its African American population for the state's history of slavery, shows the first time that the king and queen of Mobile's black Mardi Gras attended the coronation of Mobile's white Mardi Gras' king and queen. The 'mingling' of black and white Mardi Gras monarchs was considered an historic event.

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Pros

  • A colorful profile of Mobile, Alabama, and its Mardi Gras traditions.
  • A glimpse at underlying racism in a city that claims it has none.
  • Access to the inner circles of still segregated 'mystic societies'
  • A look at the insularity and self involvement of a small American southern city.

Cons

  • The film doesn't establish context and makes no reference to broader socio-political issues

Description

  • A reluctant white debutante's mom insists daughter participate so she'll understand her connection to tradition an place.
  • In white Mardi Gras parades, blacks may only participate as float handlers or dancers.
  • There's one integrated crewe in Mobile. It has one white member.
  • White queen Helen wears a train her grandmother wore, but it's made longer and updated with her initials.
  • Black queen Stephanie, a grade school teacher, spends about $20,000 on her gowns, costume and accessories.

Guide Review - Order of Myths - DVD Review of The Order of Myths - 2008

Margaret Brown follows the two sets of monarchs as they prepare for glory and reflect on their responsibilities in representing their city. Neither pair reveals much concern about ongoing segregation. Nor do the film's other characters--white and black community leaders and others engaged in the annual fetes--find segregation problematical.

That's actually hard to believe--especially when black queen Stephanie realizes her ancestors were brought to Mobile aboard a ship owned and run by the forebears of Helen, the white Mardi Gras queen, and expresses no resentment. No resentment? Can that be the honest-to-God truth?

As filmmaker, Brown remains objective about her characters, their beliefs and behavior--although Mobile is her ancestral home and her family has for generations participated in the Order of Myths, one of the main white Mardi Gras societies. Brown interviews her grandfather, an affable gentleman who makes no apologies for Mobile's segregationist practices.

Brown hints, however, that the unfailing politeness and niceties she shows are, perhaps, deceptive. Her camera sweeps through poor rundown black neighborhoods, showing them in contrast to sweeping tree-clad lawns surrounding Mobile's wealthy whites' homes. Masked white 'mystics' drone on about how you can't tell people whom to have in their homes, and comment that monied blacks can afford their own crewes. But Brown shows us a black crewe that can't afford to own a float and must rent one from a white group--and their banter during the negotiation is disturbingly solicitous. So, you're left with a lot of contradictory impressions.

It's disturbing that the film, while focusing on Mobile's Mardi Gras obsession, makes no reference whatsoever to the world's broader social and political issues. It's hard to tell whether this insularity is a failing of the community's or the filmmaker's.

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