The Order Of Myths

The Order Of Myths

****

Reviewed by: George Williamson

Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday and is perhaps the most important day of the year for many towns in the US Gulf Coast. Long before New Orleans had its carnival, the good folks of Mobile began theirs, a spectacle culminating with The Order of Myths parade - the final, largest and most steeped in heritage of all the celebrations. But many of the proceedings are still segregated, black and white communities producing almost entirely separate events. Can, and indeed should, it continue unchanged into the 21st century?

In Mobile, Mardi Gras is celebrated by Mystics - societies created for the parade - who create elaborate costumes and masks to wear as they parade, throwing glittering beads and packs of moon pies to cheering onlookers. However, almost all of the Mystic societies are segregated and the black and white communities each elect their own King and Queen and run their own events.

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The Order Of Myths watches the Mobile Carnival Association (MCA), which is run by the caucasian societies, and the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association (MAMGA), which is run by the Afro-American societies, in the months leading up to the big day. The differences between the two groups are striking; the MCA are very formal, throwing balls for their members so young ladies may come out into society, and running rather posh events such as wine tastings. MAMGA are more relaxed, but just as passionate about the parade. There's a slight air of competition between the two organizations, but they're both utterly devoted to making their royal couple as majestic as possible.

The Order of Myths is more than a look at the celebration of Mardi Gras, it's a deep gaze into the history and the people of Mobile. In 1859 the city was the landing of the last recorded slave ship to enter the US, and the repercussions of this event are still apparent today: streets are named after the ship's owner's family, a large proportion of the Afro-American community are related to slaves who escaped when it ran aground.

The film visits schools and cemeteries and talks to many of the people central to the societies involved, collecting thoughts and views to give a rounded argument. The film highlights racial tensions in the carnival, but also allows the people of Mobile to defend their actions. Individuals in each organization claim that the segregated carnivals are the way that people want them - usually taking a tradition-over-all-else standpoint, and others are making progress - in 2003 the first integrated Mystic society was formed, although it only had one white member.

Margaret Brown's film shines a light onto the intricacies of an age old joyous ritual, but it's clear that some ugly spectres of slavery and segregation are still heavy in the air. A fascinating documentary.

Reviewed on: 23 Jun 2008
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Using dual Mardi Gras parades, The Order of Myths delves into cultural exploration and integration in a community still stuck in tradition.

Director: Margaret Brown

Year: 2008

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: USA


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