Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Order of Myths|
Director: Margaret Brown
The first Mardi Gras in America was celebrated in Mobile, Alabama in 1703. In 2007, it is still racially segregated. Filmmaker Margaret Brown (Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt), herself a daughter of Mobil... more »
The Order of Myths: Best Documentary of 2008
Edwin B. Arnaudin | Brevard, NC United States | 01/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mobile, Ala. is home to the nation's oldest Mardi Gras festival. During the two weeks of pageants and parades, the locals abide by a tradition of racially segregated celebrations, simultaneously exposing behavior that is both taboo and honored.
Director Margaret Brown's expert use of irony and social commentary in "The Order of Myths" is as captivating as the elaborate and pricey galas of the 2007 occurrence. The uncomfortably real moments are most evident through a running theme of whites making reference to future hopes for equality, then handing off a discarded piece of china to a black server working an all-white event. The tension peaks when members of the black Mardi Gras queen's family comment that their ancestors were brought to Mobile on the slave ship Clotilda by ancestors of the white queen's family. The just-so manner in which the black family references its past is consistent throughout the film, keeping tensions to a minimum but acknowledging them nonetheless.
The sense of ambivalence is also prevalent on the white side. Comments are made concerning hopes for integrated celebrations, but the same people later express a desire for maintaining the rich traditions that are enjoyed by each group. Folks acknowledge the touchiness of the situation and how the Mobile celebrations are different by exhibiting such throwback values, but few are in a hurry to make a change.
An additional layer of intrigue is found in the film's first interviewee, a friendly-looking and eerily familiar older Southern gentleman. His second appearance identified him as Dwain Luce and it clicked for me that he was featured in Ken Burns' "The War." Curious if Luce's celebrity status had influenced Brown's editing decision to place him at the film's opening, those wonderings were shattered in Luce's final clip when an additional identifier appeared below his name: "My Grandfather." It was a stunning epiphany that made me feel, through my dual-film appreciation of Luce and rapport with Brown (who I interviewed for a newspaper article), like Dwain Luce's unknown friend.
Take time to see this film. It was criminally left off of the short list of 15 films from which 5 will be nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar. "The Order of Myths" is better than the best on that list, including the excellent "Man on Wire" and "Trouble the Water.""
Important Documentary on Many Levels
Tomazulob | 01/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This little film by Margaret Brown can easily be overlooked--but it shouldn't. This could also be easily categorized as a film about tolerated racism--but it is so much more. Anybody not from the US who does not understand why the racism is so strong in this country needs to see this film for a sliver of the history that shows the roots of it. For those who think racism is a permanent part of the fabric of this country, they need to see this to show that there is hope that this is changing. For those who want change now, this is not the film for you, as the greatest strength of this film is the display of generations of change that are and have taken place.
Brown has taken the oldest tradition of Mardi Gras in the country (no, not New Orleans, but Mobile--another statement made in this movie) and, according to the extra section of the DVD, inadvertently used it to show the history of the Mardi Gras, the history of race relations in the city, and, from a microcosmic point of view, the emotions of the participants (past and present) of the two simultaneous groups who celebrate this event. A King and Queen of Mardi Gras are selected from each racial community (Caucasian and African-American) with a following of these four people around. What I found particularly interesting about these four people was the preconceived notions I had as a former resident of the South and how 3 of the 4 evolved in front of the camera. Felix was basically exactly as I suspected, but he still evolved as well. The last 20 minutes of the film were especially encouraging and heart-warming.
I can not recommend this film highly enough. While it starts a bit slowly, it is well worth the wait. The interview of some of the participants along with Ms. Brown at a screening in the extras section is also enlightening. I am almost 60 years old, and I have seen some changes in race relations in this country. This film has shown me that in the next 60 years there will most likely be more changes and evolution in this area, but it will be very slow. I am heartened by the future for my kids and grandkids in being part of this process. Thank you, Margaret."
Heritage and Division in Mobile's Grand Mardi Gras Celebrati
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 01/22/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Documentarian Margaret Brown turns the camera on the ritual celebration of Mardi Gras in her hometown of Mobile, Alabama in "The Order of Myths", which takes its name from the oldest mystic (masked) society to march in the Tuesday parade. Mobile has the oldest and one of the grandest Mardi Gras traditions in the United States, having celebrated its first Carnival in 1703. Actually, Mobile has two Mardi Gras traditions: that of the Mobile Carnival Association (MCA), now in its 103rd year, and that of the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association (MAMGA), and all-black organization founded in 1939 as an alternative to the all-WASP MCA. Their traditions are strikingly similar but separate, and, combined, the festivities impact Mobile's economy to the tune of $200 million per year. "The Order of Myths" follows the preparations by both organizations for the big event with an eye to what the largely segregated celebration may -or may not- say about race relations in Mobile.
For viewers who are not Southerners, this is a look at another culture. As a Northerner, I recognize the WASP country clubs and debutantes' balls, but the South has its own, perhaps more theatrical, brand of class and cultural boundaries. "The Order of Myths" offers some sense of how Mobile's past is reflected in its vaunted Mardi Gras traditions and what people may think about it. They don't all think the same thing. MCA's 2007 King and Queen, Max Bruckman and Helen Meaher, and MAMGA's King and Queen, Joseph Roberson and Stefannie Lucas, share their experiences and perspectives. And all seem equally moved by the honor bestowed upon them. The coverage of the technical aspects of the celebrations is sparse, but we see a bit of the wardrobe design for the royal courts. And we visit some of the older, traditional, and newer, more inclusive, parading societies.
Spending so much money and energy on a holiday celebration is foreign to me, but the role of heritage in Southern culture intrigues me every time I encounter it. In the North, knowledge of one's ancestry makes for interesting trivia, but it does little to contribute to an individual's identity. The value that Southerners place on heritage, defined as the impact of history on identity, collective or individual, is apparent in Mobile's Mardi Gras and surrounding events, for better or worse. "The Order of Myths" looks at the better and the worse of holding heritage in such esteem, as it both enriches and limits the lives of those who value it. That much is true for both the middle-class black and upper-crust white communities that we see, even though their heritage is different. I don't think there is any need to be judgmental about it. Traditions, both old and new, have an important place in these communities. And Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama is a colorful way to explore these ideas.
The DVD (New Yorker 2009): Bonus features include 13 deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer (2 min), a "Q&A with Margaret Brown and Cast at the Mobile, AL Screening" (21 min) that features 4 members of the cast, and an audio commentary by Margaret Brown and cinematographer Michael Simmonds. In the commentary, Brown fills us in on her connection to the events of the film, gives us more information about them, and she and Simmonds discuss technical aspects of filming 370 hours of footage with 3 camera crews, the film's style, and the people in it."
Betrayal disguised as a movie
Button Featherstone | Mobile, Alabama United States | 10/06/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"By the time you have read this you already get the gist of the movie. In one of the more "dramatic" scenes we see a knight in the white court hand a glass to a black waiter as he is being dragged away by his deb. Forget the fact that the knight in question is not only not a Mobilian he isn't even an American. What Ms. Brown fails to show in the movie is that the black court had the same coronation in the same locale with the same waiters and waitresses. One can only assume that members of the black court were handing their glasses to black wait staff. Why did Ms. Brown not show this? If it is a story of intentionally separate Mardi Gras groups what point does showing this non-Mobilian have to do with the story? How many times have you handed something to a black waiter?
Ultimately this movie has nothing to do with Mardi Gras or race. It is the story of a film maker who exploited her family and friends to make a story that would please her peers in New York. One can hear them now, "Margaret, how did you ever escape such a dreadful and backwards place? I cannot EVER imagine living there" as they hand the wine glass back to the black waiter who they would never acknowledge. Ms. Brown used her connections to get access, she was trusted by these people and she lied and intentionally embarrassed them and her hometown not by showing the truth but by crafting her story ahead of time and editing footage to match the story. What good would her documentary have been if there was not an evil side (the white Mobilians) and a good side (Ms. Brown). Good riddance."