The film's title, The Order of Myths is the name of the 'mystic society' in which Brown's family has been involved for generations, and she interviews her grandfather about the meaning and importance of Mobile's Mardi Gras tradition--to her family, the city and contemporary culture.
Tradition and Racism
Various participants from both the white and black communities explain that Mardi Gras is their way of honoring their history and ancestors. It's important because it preserves their sense of place. Both groups are apparently untroubled that segregation in in the 'mystic societies' and Mardi Gras celebrations still prevails.
Actually, several people--mostly from the white community--express concerns that the segregation might be misconstrued as a more serious issue than, they say, it actually is. And, we see that membership in one recently organized 'mystic society' is open to all, and that society, which currently claims one white member, considers itself to be integrated.
As a matter of fact, Mobile has a very popular black mayor, as we see when he ceremoniously hands over a key to the city to the white Mardi Gras' king to kick off the day's celebrations.
Tradition and Reconciliation
However, at one point during the film, we see black queen Stephanie, who's a grade school teacher in her daily life, come to the realization that her ancestors were actually transported to Mobile on a slave ship owned and run by the ancestors of white queen Helen. That must have been a shocker, but Stephanie's moderate reaction is a measure of Mobile's active attempts to further reconciliation between the city's black and white populations.
As filmmaker, Brown furthers discussion of reconciliation through the comments of historians, preachers and other community members. Throughout the film's storyline, Brown's handling of Mobile's Mardi Gras-related social and political issues is very much integrated with interviews and well-shot footage that creates both a sense of place and of celebration. As background to specific events, she shows run down neighborhoods, grand mansions and a range of carefully maintained age old trees that are considered city treasures. She captures the pomp and ceremony of Mardi Gras in colorful footage of costumes, balls, floats, superb bands and steppers that obviously delight cheering crowds.
Mobile In A Bubble
And, there is no establishment of a broader context. In Order of Myths, Mobile and its Mardi Gras duality seem to be world unto themselves, presented without reference to the wider world's pressing issues--the failing economy, environmental concerns, the war in Iraq. The film's impressive compilation of civil and celebratory minutiae creates an intriguing profile of a city whose citizens are completely self involved. Mobile and its citizens are in a bubble.
Brown is an accomplished filmmaker, so that's obviously her intention. Whether it's seen as insighful or an oversight is up to audiences and their individual perspectives.
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- Release date: July, 2008
- Running time: 97 minutes
- Parents Guide: Add content advisory for parents
- Country: USA
- Language: English
- Filming Location: Mobile, Alabama, USA
- (Nominated) Independent Spirit Award, 2008, Best Documentary
- (Nominated) Independent Spirit Award, 2008, Truer Than Fiction Award
- Silverdocs Documentary Festival, 2008, Cinematic Vision Award
- Distribution Company: The Cinema Guild